Since 2016, Colorado has experienced the highest rate in teen suicides in the nation. From 2016 to 2019, teen suicides increased in Colorado by 58%. Inadequate access to critical mental health resources is often cited as the number one reason for teen suicide.
Unfortunately, this statistic is just one of many troubling Colorado mental health statistics. Colorado ranks 7th in the nation for suicides and is currently 27th in the nation in mental health spending. According to the Colorado Sun, “Suicide deaths in Colorado have increased almost every year since 2009, reaching a new high of 1,156 in 2016. Colorado that year had the fifth-highest suicide rate in the nation and has been in the top 10 states since 2009.”
Something is terribly wrong in our beautiful state.
Where is the outrage? I, and many SD17 residents, have heard very little, if at all, about our state’s mental health crisis from our elected officials, including my opponent, Rep. Sonya Jaquez Lewis. Rep. Jaquez Lewis takes pride that she would be the “only Health Care Professional elected to the Colorado Senate,” however, she doesn’t mention a single thing about the biggest healthcare crisis our state faces: mental health.
Want to see for yourself? Here’s a link to her Issues page: https://sonyaforcolorado.com/issues/
Lastly, how is it possible that we live in a state where our budget is $32.5 billion, $302,458,426 coming from marijuana sales tax revenue, that we cannot provide much-needed mental health access to our Colorado residents?
Our state government appears to be spending money in all the wrong places and prioritizing the needs of wasteful, ineffective, and negligent government agencies over the needs of our residents. RTD, which was mandated by SD17 voters in 2004 to build a Denver-Boulder-Longmont rail line, has yet to deliver on its promise, despite taking over $120 million in taxpayer dollars for a project that, according to them, will take until 2050 to complete. Why does the state of Colorado continue to funnel money to this wasteful state government agency that has mishandled our money for well over a decade? See my blog post and resources regarding RTD here.
In fact, it seems like our state government responds in the direct opposite manner they should be. Governor Polis, through executive order, defunded mental health programs during one of the most mental straining times our state has ever experienced, the COVID-19 pandemic.
If elected to be your next Colorado State Senator from District 17, I would move to accomplish, at the very least, three of the following things to give adequate mental health resources to our teens:
1. Substantially increase funding for the amazing mental health non-profits in Colorado, including SD17, that are doing incredible work by directly helping teens in need. These non-profits are often deprived of the monetary resources from the state to be able to do their work with the most effectiveness.
2. Move that SD17 and its encompassing cities, like the City of Boulder recently did, create its own district public transportation and kick out RTD once and for all. I would like to convene with the local city councils to discuss this proposal. The over $120 million we have paid into RTD for this rail line should be immediately disbursed back to SD17 residents in the form of a stimulus check or funneled into mental health programs. RTD doesn’t deserve another dime of SD17 taxpayer money, and our money would be much wisely spent somewhere else.
3. I would create a funding initiative with the goal that Colorado be at least 20th in the nation for mental health spending, not 27th, by at least 2025. This means that the state government, along with various agencies, groups, and committees, would have a mandate to (1) find monetary resources from the state budget and direct them away from wasteful agencies toward mental health programs and (2) directly engage with mental health-related non-profits across the state to make sure that we understand their needs and how we can directly serve them more effectively.
Overall, it’s time to take mental health seriously in Colorado. It is unacceptable and frankly disgraceful that mental health continues to be pushed aside while our teens lack the support they need to feel empowered and thrive. It’s time to be outraged.