Letter: Eagle County voters can lead the way on mental health in November election | VailDaily.com

Letter: Eagle County voters can lead the way on mental health in November election

Editor’s note: Find a cited version of this letter at http://www.vaildaily.com.

“How could anyone here be depressed?”

That was one of the questions I heard last spring during a visit to Eagle County. It was a typically magnificent day in the mountains, and the topic I had come to discuss — the prevalence of mental health and substance use disorders — seemed somehow incongruous.

For all its beauty, of course, Colorado’s high country is not immune from such disorders. Providers are scarce, the cost of care can be steep, and the myths that surround mental illness (“It’s your own fault,” “It’s all in your head,” “You can just snap out of it”) can be deadly.

Indeed, according to Chris Lindley, director of the Eagle County Department of Public Health and Environment, the suicide rate in Eagle County is among the highest in the state. In the Healthy Kids Colorado Survey, nearly one out of every four Eagle County high-school students said they had felt sad or hopeless for two weeks or more. And the percentage of middle-school students who said they had seriously considered suicide doubled in just four years.

These are problems we can solve if we’re willing not only to acknowledge mental illness but to treat it. Eagle County voters now have a chance to lead the way.

A measure on the November ballot would dedicate $1.2 million per year to local mental health and substance use services — specifically, walk-in clinics, respite care, crisis stabilization and detox units. The revenue, allocated by a community advisory board, would come from a tax on the sale and production of recreational marijuana.

According to Lindley, Eagle County imposes no such tax at the moment, nor does the county provide any funds for the prevention or treatment of mental illness. The proposed tax would be phased in and capped at 5 percent.

Ballot Issue 1A earned unanimous support from the Eagle County Board of Commissioners. Mental Health Colorado joins a broad coalition of educators, health care professionals, law enforcement officials and other local leaders in urging a yes vote.

Andrew Romanoff

President and CEO, Mental Health Colorado

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