Ballot Issue 1A aims to fund mental health facility in Larimer County

Rory Plunkett

While the National Institute of Mental Health reports 1 in 5 Americans suffers from a mental illness, a citizen initiative that will increase mental health and behavioral care to Larimer County is going to be on the ballot this November. 

Ballot Issue 1A will ask voters for a 0.25 percent sales tax increase, (25 cents for every $100 spent,) to then be put in a fund that will help the distribution of services that already exist throughout the Larimer County, and will design and build a new treatment and detox facility inside the County.

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The Board of Larimer County Commissioners unanimously supports this initiative.

The group campaigning for this issue to be on the ballot, Larimer County Citizens for Mental Health Matters, believes that this initiative will be voted in.

 “This ballot measure will ask for money that will be put into a fund for behavioral health services of Larimer County,” Jody Shadduck-McNally, treasurer and volunteer coordinator of the Larimer County Citizens for Mental Health Matters Team said. “The money will go to designing and building a crisis center for the county that will open in about year three, at the intersection of Trilby and Taft Hill, by the landfill.”

Shadduck-McNally said they will be saving taxpayers money by building the facility on county land.

We should treat these two diseases (mental illness and substance addiction) like we do cancer, heart disease, or diabetes.” Fred Garcia, Chairperson of the Board

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, one in five adults in Larimer County experience mental illness.

83 people died of suicide in Larimer County in 2016 and another 75 committed suicide in 2017, according to Larimer County Coroner. Shadduck-McNally claims the proposed facility will help combat this issue.

Shadduck-McNally added that while Larimer County has been experiencing substance abuse issues, such as opioid addiction, there is no detox center in the County. Due to this, individuals looking for such a center have to go to the Denver or Greeley centers. 

“About 60 percent of the people in the Greeley center are Larimer County residents,” Shadduck-McNally said. “I have heard from some people that the Greeley center is overpopulated. We have parents who have children who need medication for mental health problems and they can’t find a professional here in Larimer County.” 

There was a similar initiative to this one on the 2016 ballot, but Shadduck-McNally believes that this time there will be more votes to pass the measure.

She said that Laurie Stolen, the behavioral health project director for Larimer County, went around the County and talked to groups who did not vote for the initial ballot. 

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“When she talked to them more about how they were trying to solve the issue, she changed a lot of their minds.” Shadduck-McNally said. “We found out what the community needs, and that is what this ballot will solve.” 

According to the Larimer County Citizens for Mental Health Matters, Larimer County is experiencing unprecedented growth in mental health crises. Suicide has doubled in Larimer County since 2009 and we continue to have among the highest suicide rates in the nation, according to a pamphlet by Mental Health Matters. 

Chairperson for the board of Summitstone Health Partners Fred Garcia, who has worked in the behavioral health field for about 39 years, also backs this measure.

“In 2017, we had 41,000 people suffering from some kind of mental illness,” Garcia said. “We had 30,000 people who had some sort of substance abuse issue. Of that number 26,00 people did not have access to treatment.”

Garcia said the only reason people might not vote for this measure is that some people oppose any kind of raise in taxes.

Garcia encourages voters to move past the idea that people suffering from mental illnesses and substance abuse issues need to help themselves and pull themselves up by their bootstraps.

“We should treat these two diseases (mental illness and substance addiction) like we do cancer, heart disease, or diabetes,” Garcia said.

Voters will be able to submit their vote for this ballot measure and many more on Nov. 6.

“It’s not going to fix everything, but it’s a step in the right direction,” Shadduck-McNally said.

Rory Plunkett can be reached at news@collegian.com or on Twitter @jericho_wav