Sen. Kefalas discusses cracks in the mental health system

Rachel Telljohn

Mental health came prominently into Fort Collins’ rhetoric on Saturday, coinciding with its prominence surfacing once more at the national level last week. 

Colorado Senator John Kefalas, along with Joann Ginal and Jeni Arndt, house representatives for Colorado, hosted a community meeting entitled “Cracks in the Mental Health System.” The meeting was held Saturday morning at the Harmony Library.

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Arndt, Ginal and Kefalas encouraged the audience to call Senator Cory Gardner’s office. Constituents are being encouraged to call their representatives nationally, after a new bill was announced that would repeal the Affordable Care Act.

The Affordable Care Act helps to provide mental health and substance abuse disorder care nationwide. Kefalas said ObamaCare helped put money into mental health care and the current political state is not so much one of resistance, as one of complications.

“ObamaCare is (currently) being underminded viciously,” community member Alan Burd said.

The meeting was broken into two parts, a documentary screening and a question and answer session to follow. The documentary, “Going Sane,” focused on encouraging parents and families to seek what is commonly known as evidence-based practice. 

Evidence-based practice utilizes evidence from research in the field in combination with the expertise of the therapist or provider,

Joann Ginal, State Representative
State Senator, John Kefalas and State Representatives, Joann Ginal and Jeni James Arndt at Harmony Library for a community meeting regarding the cracks in the mental health system. The meeting featured the documentary, “Going Sane.” Community members had an opportunity to share ideas regarding the mental health system in Colorado. Representative Ginal stated how mental health is “an issue we face over time” and “we’re all in this together,” regarding state senators, representatives and community members themselves.

according to Duke University. The idea of evidence-based practice is already used by doctors who treat cancer, for example. 

Lisa Sabey, the producer of “Going Sane,” was part of the meeting and facilitated the question and answer session.

Community member Patrice Marqi said evidence-based practice has been a topic of conversation in Fort Collins for 20 years.

Evidence-based practice can include therapy where the family is either included in the sessions or is informed of what the sessions entail. 

“Family needs to be integrated whenever possible,” Sabey said.

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Arndt acknolwedged families for individuals with any kind of illness, mental or otherwise, are not oftentimes kind and can even be violent. 

“I would love to think everyone with a (disability comes from a nice family),” Arndt said. 

Robert Blair worked on the film and is an associate professor of social work at New Mexico State University. Blair agreed with Sabey on the importance involving parents and families in the treatment of the individual. 

“We believe (violent parents) are the minority,” Blair said. 

Sabey said mental health should be held to the same regulatory standards the medical field is. 

“It’s really easy to look at the art side (of therapy),” Blair said. “The science side (is hard).”

Kefalas said he is exploring training for social work undergraduate and graduate students, in order to bridge that gap between the idea of the art and the science sides of therapy. 

Community member Alan Burd responded to the film and said it was adrenaline-inducing.

“(The) inclusions of homosexuality sandwiched between autisim and schizophrenia … I think it undermines (the message of) your movie,” Burd said. 

Jeni James Ardnt- State Representative, John Kefalas- State Senator
State Senator, John Kefalas and State Representatives, Joann Ginal and Jeni James Arndt at Harmony Library for a community meeting regarding the cracks in the mental health system. The meeting featured the documentary, “Going Sane.” Community members had an opportunity to share ideas regarding the mental health system in Colorado. Representative Ginal stated how mental health is “an issue we face over time” and “we’re all in this together,” regarding state senators, representatives and community members themselves.

Senator Ginal thanked Burd for his input and echoed sentiments of audience members when she asked about the relationship of profit and pharmaceutical companies to mental health care. Multiple audience members said profit needed to be taken out of the equation, and a majority of the room clapped after Ginal brought up the issue of said pharmaceutical companies. 

“We (in Fort Collins) do the best job we can to try to work together and collaborate,” Kefalas said.