Hickenlooper signs mental health bills

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The mood was celebratory at the Jefferson Center for Mental Health on May 16 as Gov. John Hickenlooper signed two mental health bills into law.

“The Jefferson Center is proud to host the signing for these bills,” said Harriet Hall, Center president and chief executive officer. “This is place where we truly believe that recovery is possible and treatment works.”

The governor signed SB13-266 — Coordinated Behavioral Health Crisis Response — and HB13-1296 — Civil Commitments Task Force — with sponsors Rep. Tracy Kraft-Tharp (D-Arvada), Rep. Dave Young (D-Greeley) and Sen. Jeanne Nicholson (D-Blackhawk) on hand as well.

“Almost anyone you talk to today has a story about mental health issues or is connected to someone who has dealt with them,” Hickenlooper said. “These bills are the first step to building a system that will be able to help everyone who needs it.”

All three sponsors spoke, sharing stories about the hard work that went into getting these bills passed, and their own experiences trying to help those with mental health issues.

“I am honored to have been the prime sponsor for the crisis response bill in the senate,” said Nicholson. “We finally have the funding we’ve waited for years and years.”

Mental health groups and advocates from Jeffco and surrounding counties were all present to see the two bills signed, since they will benefit mental health facilities statewide.

“There’s been a lot of work put into the building of a crisis system that doesn’t have boundaries,” Hall said. “It’s a great thing for the state, and now we have a lot more work to do to carry it out.”

Lorraine Bowen, who sits on the Jefferson Center board of directors, was at the signing with her son, David, a mental health consumer.

“I’m so glad leaders were able to come together to set up the crisis system, and we’ll definitely make good use of it,” Lorraine said. “Cooperation is a key part of this, since almost everyone has been touched by the issue.”

David said that finding new sources of income to help people is extremely important, especially for an issue like this.

“It’s really good for the community,” he said. “It gives people a chance to get help when its necessary.”