Health Care In The States

Colorado Gov Pitches Plan To Mend Mental Health Safety Net

By Eric Whitney

December 19th, 2012, 5:44 AM

In a grim coincidence, just days after the mass killing in Newtown, Conn., Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper is proposing an $18.5 million plan to strengthen the state’s mental health system. The proposal is the result of five months of work by a group of advisors convened by Hickenlooper in the wake of a mass shooting in July at an Aurora, Colo., movie theater that left 12 dead.

The governor’s announcement had been set well before Friday’s massacre.

“We really have a duty after tragedies to look at what we do, how we act, and how we help each other,” Hickenlooper, a Democrat, said. “How do we increase the probability that we can keep those who are suffering from some sort of mental illness from being a danger to themselves and to others?”

The plan calls for 50 new treatment beds for those transitioning from institutional care,  20 more for those in jail or prison and 107 housing vouchers for people being released from in-patient treatment. It would also expand a 24 hour crisis telephone line from beyond Denver to the rest of the state. The plan also calls for five “crisis stabilization centers” people could drop in to 24 hours a day for help.

Like many states, Colorado has seen a net decline in the number of mental health treatment beds in recent years as hospitals have collectively eliminated more than they have added.

Hickenlooper’s plan also calls for streamlining Colorado’s three laws relating to involuntarily committing mentally ill people who may be dangerous.

State Rep. Bob Gardner, a Republican leader in the statehouse on health issues, said he “applauds” the governor’s proposal.

“I hope ($18.5 million) is enough to make a difference … but that’s a fair amount of money, so I’m also mindful we have a budget to meet,” Gardner said.

The plan would have to be approved by the state legislature as part of the 2013-2014 budget.

The governor has also called for talks on gun control, and several Democratic state lawmakers say they’re considering new gun control bills. “I’m certainly open to the conversation,” Gardner said, but “if greater gun control and regulation is not the answer, and I don’t believe it is, then it must be something else. And that something else is, at least in part, mental health services.”

This story is part of a collaboration that includes Colorado Public Radio, NPR and Kaiser Health News.

4 Responses to “Colorado Gov Pitches Plan To Mend Mental Health Safety Net”

  1. Lisbeth toth says:

    thank you, someone gets it!

  2. M. Hofer says:

    President Ford’s wife pushed for improved mental health during his presidency. It’s now been forty years with little or no improvement and numerous tragedies. it’s about time for a positive change!

  3. Randy says:

    The only President who served while having full blown Alzheimer’s disease, Ronald Reagan, slashed funding for America’s mental hospitals and emptied those hospitals and put hundreds of thousands of mental patients out on the street to mingle with normal society. Many of those mental patients had no criminal record so they could walk into any gun shop and buy a gun. The irony is, Ronald Reagan and James Brady were both shot by a person who was completely insane. Who said justice never gets served?

  4. Al Moncrief says:


    The Colorado Court of Appeals has reversed and remanded an initial District Court ruling that denied the contractual status of public pension COLAs in Colorado. The Court of Appeals confirmed that Colorado PERA pension COLA benefits are a contractual obligation of the pension plan Colorado PERA and its affiliated public employers. A huge victory for public sector retirees in Colorado! The Colorado Legislature may not breach its contracts and push taxpayer obligations onto the backs of a small group of elderly pensioners.

    The lawsuit is continuing. Support pension rights in the U.S. by contributing at Friend Save Pera Cola on Facebook!

    In 1977, the U.S. Supreme Court (in U.S. Trust Co, 431 U.S.) clarified that state attempts to impair their own contracts, ESPECIALLY FINANCIAL OBLIGATIONS, were subject to greater scrutiny and very little deference because the STATE’S SELF-INTEREST IS AT STAKE. As the court bluntly stated:

    “A governmental entity can always find a use for extra money, especially when taxes do not have to be raised. If a state could reduce its financial obligations whenever it wanted to spend the money for what it regarded as an important public purpose, the Contract Clause would provide no protection at all . . . Thus, a state cannot refuse to meet its legitimate financial obligations simply because it would prefer to spend the money to promote the public good rather than the private welfare of its creditors.”