On Your Ballot: $45M mental health initiative is needed in Denver in midst of crisis, advocates say

Posted at 5:48 PM, Oct 15, 2018
and last updated 2018-10-15 20:18:22-04

DENVER — Denver voters will have a lot to consider when they fill out their ballots over the next few weeks, including spending millions of dollars to help those who need mental health care through proposed Ordinance 301 or Caring 4 Denver.

Emergency responders and law enforcement face a growing problem. Every year in the U.S., 35,000 people become disabled or a danger to themselves because of a severe mental health crisis, according to Andrew Romanoff, CEO of Mental Health Colorado. He is one of many advocates of the ballot initiative.

"We turn our criminal justice system into a warehouse for people with mental illness, drug and alcohol addiction," said Romanoff. "We need to make sure that they don't fall through the cracks, that another crisis reoccurs instead, that they actually get help with treatment, housing, residential placement.”

This proposal isn't cheap. If passed, it would raise the sales tax .25 cents for every $100, raising $45 million for a new mental health facility and school programs.

It’s also a personal issue for Romanoff, as his cousin committed suicide in 2015 on New Year’s Eve.

"My family and I are going to be tortured for the rest of our lives for failure to stop this tragedy or get her the mental health care she so desperately needed," said Romanoff.

The recent suicides at Arapahoe high school and the closure of Arapahoe House, one of Colorado's biggest mental health providers have pushed community leaders like State Representative Leslie Herod to lead the charge for a new facility and a new program.

"People that have mental health or addiction challenges, maybe they're homeless or need a safe place for respite, access to services, detox, maybe even long-term care," said Herod.