Who is the Colorado Criminal Justice Reform Coalition?

Our mission is to reverse the trend of mass incarceration in Colorado. We are a coalition of nearly 7,000 individual members and over 100 faith and community organizations who have united to stop perpetual prison expansion in Colorado through policy and sentence reform.

Our chief areas of interest include drug policy reform, women in prison, racial injustice, the impact of incarceration on children and families, the problems associated with re-entry and stopping the practice of using private prisons in our state.

If you would like to be involved please go to our website and become a member.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Mental health services in a fragile state in Colorado - The Denver Post

Mental health services in a fragile state in Colorado - The Denver Post

When he climbed a tree and ranted incoherently, doctors in one emergency room said it was a "psychotic reaction" to mushrooms and sent him home.

When he quit school, couldn't keep a job and got into squabbles that were all someone else's fault, another doctor said he was manipulating his parents. Try tough love, he advised.

It wasn't until J. disfigured himself in a bloody attempt at self-annihilation that the 19-year-old Denver man got the diagnosis — schizophrenia — and the treatment he needed.

It shouldn't have to be that way, his mother said.

Too often for the seriously mentally ill, getting the right treatment, and enough of it, is tougher than coping with the condition itself.

Roadblocks, like stigma and ignorance, combine with budget cuts and profit motives that have decimated care options. For those with insurance, psychiatrists and psychologists are hard to find; for those without, they're practically nonexistent. The nation's troubled history and inconsistent laws merge with civil-liberties concerns to make mandatory treatment unheard of for troubled individuals who don't believe they are ill.

That's one reason a mother and son decided to tell their story, though she said the stigma of mental illness made them fear being identified, except by their fist initials.

She came forward, too, because of the shootings in Tucson last month that left six people dead and wounded Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and 12 others. Jared Loughner, the man accused in the shootings, is widely believed to be mentally ill.

"The Loughner parents could have been us," J.'s mother, A., wrote in an e-mail. "The only difference between our stories is that our son was not only the perpetrator of a terrible violent act, but was the victim of his sick mind as well."

Bipolar disorder affects about 5.7 million American adults, or about 2.6 percent of the U.S. population, according to the National Institute of Mental Health.

"Budget cuts continue to happen, we've reduced rates paid to Medicaid providers, we're not funding the care providers for the indigent, we've reduced appropriations to federally qualified health centers," said former state Sen. Moe Keller, who is with the nonprofit Mental Health America of Colorado.

Treatment options dwindle

Over the past decade, as budget crises have ebbed and flowed, the state has cut millions, restored a bit, then cut millions more, from mental health programs.

Not only has the state shut down beds at both psychiatric hospitals — at Fort Logan, the adolescent and geriatric units have closed — but funding for community outpatient treatment centers has been slashed as well.

Read more: Mental health services in a fragile state in Colorado - The Denver Post http://www.denverpost.com/news/ci_17367464#ixzz1DkUWS4YK
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