A New Home for The Equitas Project

Jails and prisons have become the largest mental health facilities in the U.S. It’s a painful intersection that The Equitas Project has worked to disentangle since its founding by the David and Laura Merage Foundation in 2013. As of April 16, 2020, The Equitas Project is now part of Mental Health Colorado, the state’s leading advocate for mental health, under the leadership of President & CEO Vincent Atchity.

Through their foundation, David and Laura Merage launched The Equitas Project as a reflection of their deep commitment to the mission. They transferred ownership of The Equitas Project in recognition of Mental Health Colorado’s leadership in mental health and criminal justice reform and Atchity’s ongoing leadership and dedication to advocacy in this area. The David and Laura Merage Foundation has generously committed to providing continued support through 2022.

“Behaviors associated with poor mental health and addiction are mistaken for, and treated as, willful criminality,” said David Merage. “Rather than supporting people’s health and providing access to quality care and education, we default to law enforcement and incarceration, where health declines further and poor behavior is exacerbated. This decision will allow the work already done by Equitas to continue, now with Mental Health Colorado leading the nation in disentangling this intolerable pain point of mental health and criminal justice.”

Equitas’ focus on criminal justice and mental health fits perfectly with Mental Health Colorado’s mission to create healthier minds across the lifespan. Mental Health Colorado has an ambitious legislative agenda, including policy priorities that aim to provide a strong start for all of Colorado’s children, improve access to quality care, reduce potential harm from drugs and alcohol, decriminalize mental health, and support wellness in aging. All or most of the current projects initiated by Equitas will continue under the leadership of Mental Health Colorado.

“The intersection of mental health and criminal justice is one of the most egregious failures in the mental health landscape,” Atchity said. “This support from David and Laura Merage will enable us to lead the way in making essential course corrections to disentangle mental health and criminal justice in Colorado and across the nation.”

Mental Health Colorado will now assume the key role in coordinating ongoing work by some of the most influential stakeholders in mental health and criminal justice reform in Colorado and the nation. Colorado partners and national advisors include leaders in law enforcement, behavioral health research and practice, corrections, the justice system, advocacy, and policy.

About Mental Health Colorado

Mental Health Colorado is the state’s leading advocate in promoting mental wellness, ending shame and discrimination, and ensuring equitable access to mental health and substance use care. Mental Health Colorado is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization and an affiliate of Mental Health America.

About the David & Laura Merage Foundation

The David & Laura Merage Foundation’s purpose is to tackle complex societal problems and accelerate lasting solutions by investing in breakthrough innovations, launching new organizations, and mobilizing movements to reform laws. They have a commitment to early childhood education, mental health equality, contemporary art, Israel prosperity, and Jewish life.