Van Beek: County commissioners work with sheriff on mental health (column)
When lives are in your hands, you want a team that you can depend on. I am so fortunate to have an incredible staff at all levels of the Sheriff’s Office. We collaborate and develop strategies for making Eagle County a safe place to live and work, while also connecting with local community organizations to create fun spaces and a prosperous business environment. Often, this combination requires involvement with other county agencies and a close association with the Eagle County Board of Commissioners.
When your experience and research indicates a specific course of action, it can be frustrating to encounter challenges, yet it can also be incredibly rewarding. I truly appreciate the diversity of opinions and guidance that I receive from the commissioners, as our vision is filtered through the lens of varied experience, producing expanded ideas of design and implementation.
The governing of Eagle County encompasses numerous agencies and affiliates. The commissioners operate as a governmental body, focused on the county’s core mission by providing budgetary, legislative and accountability oversight. They have the benefit of viewing the big picture of issues and how each relates to other agencies within the county. Thus, individual entities within the county benefit from the input.
Of all the county agencies, the Sheriff’s Office probably covers the widest range of issues, given our jurisdiction, and working in unison with the commissioners helps us to construct programs and strategies that can be successful, while serving the needs of multiple stakeholders.
There are three elected county commissioners, each with a unique background and skillset and all committed to enhancing our lives in Eagle County. A recent example of this concern was in seeking a solution to the lack of mental health facilities in the valley.
The Detention Center has been a source of assistance for inmates needing counseling and medication, but once they depart the center, they are left without the support necessary to maintain a healthy state of mind, which could result in additional inappropriate and potentially illegal actions. Often the cause of their erratic behavior can be remedied with proper psychological care.
Currently, the only mental crisis stabilization units or drug/alcohol detox facilities are located on the Front Range, with more limited access available in Grand Junction. With the growing opioid crisis and the need for emotional and mental support, along with the importance of diagnosing and treating conditions early, it has become imperative to develop nearby resources.
After years of debating possibilities, we polled the possibility of utilizing a recreational (not medical) marijuana tax to support the development of new mental health programs. The response was overwhelmingly positive. We also were surprised at the incredible support received by the marijuana dispensaries and growers in providing this funding. Our collaboration resulted in a ballot initiative for voter consideration: Initiative 1A.
The county commissioners drafted the submission, utilizing a tax formula that will generate approximately $1.2 million per year to be directed to specific mental health projects. The commissioners coordinated all entities in the development of this proposal. It is an excellent example of how the Eagle County Board of Commissioners works with government and private sector stakeholders in achieving potential solutions.
As an elected official, naturally I am precluded from encouraging you to vote in any particular manner, nor would I want to. There are pros and cons to every decision. What I do encourage is for the community to examine the issue and to vote accordingly. On Election Day, it is the voters who will decide if this is an appropriate source of income.
I am so grateful to our team, which works tirelessly in our Detention Center to help those in need of these services, and I am excited about the upcoming possibilities. Looking forward to many more smiling faces as we expand the ability for all to enjoy the incredible life we share in Eagle County.
James van Beek is the Eagle County sheriff. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.