Mental health officials narrow focus of pot tax funds, money starts in Feb. | VailDaily.com

Mental health officials narrow focus of pot tax funds, money starts in Feb.

Marijuana plants grow at a Garfield County cultivation facility.

EAGLE — Now that Eagle County voters have approved a targeted marijuana tax, regional mental health professionals are trying to decide where best to spend the money.

The new tax went into effect on New Year's Day, and while the first $1.2 million it raises annually is set to be spent on mental health programs, how much it will actually raise will not be known until the curtain closes on 2018. Money won't start rolling in until February, when January sales taxes are due, explained Chris Lindley, Eagle County's director of public health and environment.

In the meantime, the steering committee, Eagle County Mental Health Partners, is putting together recommendations that they'll start sending to the Eagle County commissioners in April or May, Lindley said.

Eagle County Mental Health Partners is also collecting ideas and community input.

Other local funding sources

Other local funding sources have popped up in addition to the marijuana tax.

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Vail Resorts CEO Rob Katz and his wife, Elana Amsterdam, recently launched a foundation to address mental health and substance issues.

"Our local communities have felt a tremendous and very personal impact from mental health and substance abuse issues, which has been amplified by a lack of services and the stigma that unfortunately still surrounds this topic," Katz said in a press release. "Elana and I want to be a part of the solution as these communities put in place meaningful programs that will have a direct impact for the people that need it most."

Katz's $100,000 donation in Eagle County ($655,000 total across Western U.S. communities where Vail Resorts properties are located) will be passed along to three local nonprofits: Speak up Reach Out for suicide prevention, reliance training and assistance for crisis therapy services; Early Childhood Partners for mental health and behavioral support for early childhood professionals and parents; and Our Community Foundation to address gaps that arise in 2018, but are not addressed by the marijuana tax.

The countywide tax on recreational marijuana could generate an estimated $2 million annually. Of that, the first $1.2 million is supposed to be spent on mental health and substance abuse programs in the Eagle River and Roaring Fork valleys.

Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 and rwyrick@vaildaily.com.