Colorado attorney general tackles Latino community concerns in Rifle
Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser highlighted the various efforts his office is making to better bridge the Spanish-speaking community to critical services, like mental health, law enforcement and drug rehabilitation.
“We are always looking to hire people who bring different valuable backgrounds and diversity,” he said during a meeting with the Garfield County Latino Community Committee in Rifle. “We have a diversity, equity and inclusion committee with over 100 people, and we need to represent all of Colorado.”
Using an example of how the Latino community might not always know where to go for services, Rifle Police Officer Carlos Cornejo spoke of times when contractors neglected to pay their predominantly Latino employee base at the completion of a project. Yet these types of instances went unreported.
“I’ve not seen any of these cases brought forth for charges or anything like that, and I think we’re lacking information,” he said. “Things are happening out there. People just don’t know that they can go and report that your employers aren’t paying you and that it could be a crime. So I think we need to work on education on that.”
On the rare occasion Latino employees do report when they don’t get paid, Cornejo said they may not know how to file a small claims suit.
In response, Weiser said his office is looking to get authority to go after contractors engaging in those shady practices, and that he’s very interested in a public campaign idea.
With a new detox facility planned to come to Glenwood Springs, Garfield County interpreter Dina Prieto asked how it will best serve the Latino community.
“Speaking on the Latino community, there is a problem of addiction, and there is not enough help,” she said. “And one of the reasons that there isn’t enough help is because it’s not financially possible.”
Garfield Commissioner Tom Jankovsky, who helped establish the Latino Community Committee, said people won’t be turned away if they’re in need of help.
“Medicaid will cover and help with payments if somebody has Medicaid health insurance,” he said, “Or just like the emergency room, they won’t turn people away,”
Adding to Jankovsky’s comments, Weiser said the state is already paying for people’s addiction through incarceration. Which is why he supports initially diverting drug offenders to rehabilitation facilities rather than the penal system.
“It will be less expensive, smarter and more humane to provide more treatment, so we didn’t have to put so many people in jail or prison,” he said. “And right now we have only 16% of the treatment we need.”
Weiser also responded to questions regarding mental health.
“The No. 1 issue I see for young people is mental health. The No. 1 cause of death between 12- and 24-year-olds is suicide,” he said. “We run the safe-to-tell program about threats to students safety. The No. 1 threat we receive is about young people talking about suicide.”
With the state receiving $450 million in federal coronavirus relief aid to repair its behavioral health care system, Weiser said all communities in Colorado will have the opportunity to benefit from those funds.
Weiser said 10% of those funds will be managed at the state level, and that he’s open to hear ideas on how to spend those funds.
“You should hold us accountable on that,” he said. “On the 90% of the money spent locally and regionally, it will all be disclosed and put on a publicly available database.”
Reporter Ray K. Erku can be reached at 612-423-5273 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Support Local Journalism
Support Local Journalism
Readers around Glenwood Springs and Garfield County make the Post Independent’s work possible. Your financial contribution supports our efforts to deliver quality, locally relevant journalism.
Now more than ever, your support is critical to help us keep our community informed about the evolving coronavirus pandemic and the impact it is having locally. Every contribution, however large or small, will make a difference.
Each donation will be used exclusively for the development and creation of increased news coverage.