6:00am

Tue April 16, 2013
Politics

Mental Health Bills To Be Debated at State Capitol

Last December Governor Hickenlooper made a plea for more money and additional resources to strengthen mental health services in Colorado following the shootings in Newtown, Connecticut.

State lawmakers will take up several bills this week dealing much of what the Governor outlined.

Five months after the Aurora theatre shooting and just days after the Sandy Hook school shootings, Governor Hickenlooper, speaking on NPR’s Talk of the Nation, said more needed to be done to keep people from falling through the cracks.

“And this is everything, you know, from spending $10 million a year to establish a single, you know, statewide, mental health crisis hotline and establish five 24/7 walk-in crisis stabilization services to, you know, making sure we expand some of the, you know, many hospitals have cut back their facilities so that we don't have possible capacity anymore.”

KUNC’s Brian Larson spoke to Colorado Statesman publisher Jody Hope Strogoff about the pending mental health legislation.

Interview Highlights…

On overhauling the state’s ‘Civil Commitments’ system (House Bill 1296).

“Essentially there are three separate laws that will be merged into one. But the main part of this bill that probably has the most repercussions is that it would lower the threshold needed to place a person on a 72 hour hold if they think they need treatment or some kind of psychiatric intervention. It also says to people that instead of the threshold being someone one who’s an ‘imminent danger’ to themselves it lowers it to being a ‘substantial risk’ of physical harm to themselves or others.”

On the mood regarding this legislation given that control was so divisive.

“I think this will be a lot less divisive than the bills associated with guns…I think people are conscious when you bring gun legislation and combine them it’s kind of a red hearing.”

On a bill that would prevent committed persons or those judged mentally ill from obtaining firearms.

“Any time you have gun legislation in the Colorado general assembly it’s going to be controversial but you know Democrats have succeeded in getting a lot of things passed with no Republican support by the way, and we’ll see what happens with this one. This is a bill that has the support of a lot of people but all the Democrats need to do is stay with their majority and legislation would be passed and Hickenlooper would most likely sign it. He has signed other bills having to deal with gun legislation this year.”

On creating walk-in crisis centers around the state and a statewide crisis hotline.

“$19.8 million has been approved (in the state budget) and there also talking about adding 20 new beds for mentally incompetent prisoners and setting up some outpatient half-way houses and even going as far as to issue vouchers for the seriously mentally ill.”

Jody Hope Strogoff is the publisher of the Colorado Statesman.