Rally aims to call attention to state of mental health care funding | PostIndependent.com

Rally aims to call attention to state of mental health care funding

Carrie Click

Over 1,000 concerned citizens and mental health professionals are expected to attend a rally at the State Capitol in Denver today, according to Ken Stein, executive director of Colorado West Regional Mental Health Inc.

Colorado West serves a 10-county area in western Colorado. Its main offices are located in Glenwood Springs.

The purpose of the rally is to let lawmakers know the critical state of mental-health-care funding in Colorado.

“The issue is the chronic underfunding of mental health funding due to the downturn in the economy,” said Stein. “I believe the Legislature understands and shares our concern about this issue, but it’s urgent that we think through this problem together.”

The rally is scheduled from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. on the west steps of the Capitol. Stein said family members, consumers and mental health staff members are expected to attend. The event was organized by the Mental Health Association of Colorado.

According to the association, more than 66,000 Coloradans with serious mental disorders go without care.

Initial proposed spending cuts already estimate a $15 million drop in funding.

Since the Joint Budget Committee of the state legislature is constitutionally required to balance the state budget by June 30 of each year, mental health professionals and consumers are concerned that even less money will be available to feed an already underfunded system.

Stein said Colorado West’s budget has already been severely cut. He said since July 1, 2002, the organization has lost $250,000 to $300,000 in state funding. That means in Colorado West’s 10-county region, nearly 700 clients have gone without care.

“That’s maybe a third of our client base,” he said.

Stein said these type of cutbacks are unprecedented.

“This is the first time in our 30-year history we’ve had to turn clients away,” he said. “Cuts have forced us to make some very difficult decisions.”

Stein said he felt it was important to personally attend the rally in Denver to address the severity of the issue.

“We realize the state is going through tough times this year,” he said. “But the state is asking the not-for-profit sector to subsidize low income and noninsured consumers. There is only so much we can do. We have limits, too.”

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