Top of Mind: Staff, Board Members Advocate for Mental Health Care Support

    Posted 02/15/2013

    Mass shootings in Aurora and Connecticut have brought much-needed attention this legislative session to mental health treatment services in Colorado.

    And on Thursday, Jan. 24, AspenPointe board and staff members traveled to Denver as part of the Colorado Behavioral Healthcare Council’s “Day at the Capitol” to offer lawmakers support and guidance as they craft and scrutinize legislation resulting from the tragic events.
    “We will help in any way we can. We want you to know that we are available as you go through the legislative process and need experts to help you create bills or testify on behalf of proposed legislation,” Board Chair Dick Sullivan told Rep. Mark Waller, assistant majority leader in the House. 
    Waller was one of several El Paso County lawmakers AspenPointe board and staff members visited in Denver, including Sen. Bill Cadman, Senate majority leader, Rep. Pete Lee, and Rep. Dan Nordberg.
    Gov. John Hickenlooper has proposed $18.5 million to strengthen the statewide behavioral health care crisis response system; create greater access to hospital beds; provide additional treatment, housing, and supports in the community for people with serious mental health issues being released from hospital care; and concentrate on trauma informed care.
    In meetings with legislators, AspenPointe staff and board members expressed their full support of the governor’s proposal and touted it as an excellent start in the right direction to meet the needs for mental health care. They also talked about the success and need to expand Mental Health First Aid, a public education program that builds understanding of the signs and symptoms of mental illness and addiction and teaches participants how to respond to a person in crisis.
    AspenPointe has trained more than 700 people, including teachers/school administrators, faith community leaders, primary care professionals, students, and police officers in Mental Health First Aid in recent years. To learn more about Mental Health First Aid click here.
    One in five Americans has some form of mental illness that needs treatment each year. According to the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, the people of Colorado are no different. The Milken Institute has identified mental illness as one of the seven most prevalent chronic diseases in the United States — right up there with heart disease and hypertension, says George DelGrosso, chief executive officer, of the CHBC.
    Behavioral health funding per person in Colorado is only 30th among all U.S. states, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. Several legislators spoke out about taking advantage of the heightened awareness around mental health care.
     “There has been a lot of lip service for this (mental health care support) for many years,” said Rep. Bob Gardner, speaking on the House floor in connection to a mental health care resolution. “We need to take this opportunity.”
    AspenPointe board and staff members also took the opportunity to remind legislators that although the alleged murderers in Aurora and Connecticut are suspected to have mental health issues, the vast majority of people who suffer from mental health problems are not dangerous or prone to violence.
    Untreated mental health and substance abuse concerns can be devastating in other ways, board and staff members said, robbing people of their ability to go to work and school, build relationships and a future. They said the good news is that statistics show that mental health and substance abuse treatment programs work, and people do recover and rebuild their lives.
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    AspenPointe has empowered clients, enriched lives and embraced purpose through behavioral health services, counseling services, career services, substance abuse treatment, employment, education, housing, jail diversion/reintegration and care management.

    One of the largest nonprofits in Colorado Springs, AspenPointe traces its roots back to 1875 when we were called the Springs Relief Society. That organization, which delivered coal, lumber and clothing to the needy, was the genesis of what today is a comprehensive and integrated system of care that addresses the overall wellness of each client whether they need behavioral health services, counseling services or career services.

    We have 12 organizations that serve more than 30,000 individuals and families each year through behavioral health services, counseling services, career services, education, housing, jail diversion/reintegration, telephonic wellness and care management.

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