Individuals with mental health and substance use concerns need access to earlier support and care, rather than criminalization and punishment.
April 2, 2019 – (DENVER, COLO.) – Colorado leaders in mental health and criminal justice jointly address the state’s mental health crisis and list urgent priorities for reforms, in a co-authored statement released today by sixteen partner organizations (listed below) and the Equitas Project. These entities join more than fifty other key stakeholders from agencies across the state in acknowledging that Coloradans with mental health needs are “too often neglected, stigmatized, or inadequately supported.” Referring to the vast scope of poor outcomes associated with unmet mental health and substance use concerns, the authors agree: “failure to attend to these health needs results in premature death, injury, substance use and addiction, long-term disability, and many other preventable threats to public safety and wellbeing.”
While praising the significant and laudable efforts of some communities and partners around the state to address these issues, Vincent Atchity, Executive Director of The Equitas Project described this document as “a call to action for all Coloradans.”
“Leaders and members of every community in the state must take this crisis seriously and shift resources and efforts toward mental health and public health interventions which are preventative and supportive, rather than punitive,” he said.
The Colorado Course Corrections document calls for “an urgent and immediate shift in awareness, and rebalancing of effort and investment across multiple stakeholders who share accountability” for the health and safety of all Coloradans.
The list of priorities includes:
- Investing in early childhood mental health awareness and support in schools
- Implementing a world-class addiction, pain management, and mental health treatment system
- Increasing access to medication assisted treatment programs for addiction
- Expanding the use of psychiatric advance directives
- Redirecting people toward health care and minimizing arrests
- Ending the use of jails for drug and alcohol detox
The Equitas Project is joined by the following groups in releasing this announcement:
Colorado Behavioral Healthcare Council
Colorado Department of Local Affairs, Division of Housing
Colorado Mental Wellness Network
Colorado School of Public Health
Denver District Attorney’s Office
Disability Law Colorado
Drug Policy Alliance
Jefferson Center for Mental Health
Mental Health Center of Denver
Mental Health Colorado
Mind Springs Health
Office of the Colorado State Public Defender
Second Chance Center
Southeast Health Group
Please visit The Equitas Project’s website for more information on the Colorado Course Corrections event and document (including all signatories), plus tools for sharing this list with leaders and constituents in your community.
For more information, or to arrange an interview with The Equitas Project or the above-named organizations regarding this update, please contact us.
About The Equitas Project
The Equitas Project, an initiative of the David and Laura Merage Foundation, envisions an America rededicated to liberty and justice for all, where there is a commonly held expectation that jails and prisons should not continue to serve as the nation’s warehouses for people with unmet mental health needs. Equitas is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization which promotes mental health awareness, and which champions laws, policies, and practices that prioritize improved population health outcomes, sensible use of resources, and the decriminalization of mental illness. We are committed to disentangling mental health and criminal justice.
To learn more about our work and mission, please visit www.equitasproject.org, and follow us on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram @EquitasProject.