DENVER – Governor John Hickenlooper has announced an $18.5 million plan Tuesday to expand the state's mental health services in response to recent mass shootings across the country.
Mental illness “seems to be…the commonality in all these mass homicides,” he said, at a press conference.
“Strengthening Colorado’s Mental Health System: A Plan to Safeguard All Coloradans” is a five-point plan that would include the establishment of a statewide mental health crisis hotline, and open five 24-hour urgent mental health care centers and substance abuse centers.
If approved, the plan would also authorize the Colorado State Judicial System to transfer mental health commitment records directly to the Colorado Bureau of Investigation for firearm purchase background checks.
“For the past five months, in response to the Aurora shooting, we have been working to expand mental health care and services across Colorado,” Hickenlooper said in a statement. “No single plan can guarantee to stop dangerous people from doing harm to themselves or others. But we can help people from falling through the cracks. We believe these policies will reduce the probability of bad things happening to good people.”
The governor was accompanied onstage by Reggie Bicha, executive director of the Colorado Department of Human Services.
“Our goal is to help ensure we have the capacity and quality of mental health supports, services and resources to meet the needs of Coloradans, thereby keeping communities safer for everyone,” Bicha said, adding that "one in four people every year will be personally impacted by a mental health issue."
A report by coloradomentalhealth.org "Advancing Colorado's Mental Health Care," found that in 2011, nearly 1.5 million Coloradans were in need of treatment for mental health or substance abuse.
"There are a lot of arguments that we should have more guns to make things safer," Hickenlooper said. "But the young man in Connecticut, his mother had the guns in her house. Mental health connects almost all of these terrible tragedies."