We support the Caring 4 Denver campaign to improve mental health and substance use care in Denver
Mental health issues and substance use disorders jeopardize the lives of Colorado’s youth and can limit parents’ abilities to support the development of their young children. Local communities lack flexible and sufficient resources to address these issues. The Caring 4 Denver initiative, which was launched this week, would provide a sustained source of funding to provide mental health treatment and services for children, suicide prevention and substance use disorder treatment in Denver.
Last week, Caring 4 Denver submitted more than 10,000 signatures to secure a spot on the November ballot. We joined advocates at a launch party Thursday to celebrate this accomplishment. We hope to get word soon that the required signatures have been validated and we urge Denver residents to vote yes on Caring 4 Denver this November. Click here to read more about our support for this initiative.
Our It’s About Kids network leaders continue to lift up examples of community challenges with maternal mental health and adolescent depression throughout the state. Quantitative research also highlights the impact of behavioral health issues on children and their families in Colorado. Nearly one in three Colorado high school students reported experiencing sadness or hopelessness that impacted their usual activities for at least two weeks—a hallmark symptom of depression, and suicide is the leading cause of death for young people ages 10 through 24 in Colorado.
More than one in 10 children younger than age 18 live with at least one adult who has a substance use disorder and most of these children are younger than age 5. The studies of families with substance use disorders reveal patterns that significantly influence child development and increase the likelihood that a child will face emotional or behavioral challenges or struggle with a substance use disorder. Substance use disorders are also a driver of maternal mortality in Colorado; self-harm from accidental overdose or suicide accounted for the largest percentage of maternal deaths observed in Colorado between 2004 and 2012.
Currently, there are not enough resources to meet the unique needs of local communities in Colorado, including in Denver. According to Mental Health Colorado, there is only one certified addiction counselor for every 2,000 residents in Denver. There are fewer than two clinical social workers for every 1,000 residents; and fewer than one practicing child and adolescent psychiatrist per 2,000 residents. This was a major factor that led the Colorado Children’s Campaign Board of Directors to vote to support the Caring 4 Denver ballot initiative.
The initiative proposes a .25 percent increase to the Denver sales tax (25 cents on a $100 purchase), expected to raise $45 million dollars per year to expand mental health services, substance use disorder treatment, suicide prevention training and affordable housing, and case management for those in need of diversionary services. Collected funds will be managed by a nonprofit whose board will include an individual directly impacted by these issues and a person with expertise in child and youth mental health services. Fund distribution will be informed by a needs assessment the nonprofit is required to perform.
We know mental health conditions and substance use disorders jeopardize the lives of many Colorado families and we believe this initiative is an opportunity to remove barriers and increase access to needed services and trainings. It is also a model that can serve as a pilot to advance statewide policy in future years.