State Rep. Perry Will named Behavioral Health Champion

From left, Colorado Behavioral Healthcare Council Deputy Director Frank Cornelia, state representative Perry Will, Mind Springs CEO Sharon Raggio and Colorado Behavioral Healthcare Council CEO Doyle Forrestal at a ceremony presenting Will with a Community Behavioral Health Champion award at the Glenwood Springs branch of Mind Springs on Nov. 11.
Mind Springs/Courtesy photo

State Rep. Perry Will, R-New Castle, was named one of three 2021 Community Behavioral Health Champions by the Colorado Behavioral Healthcare Council in a ceremony at the Glenwood Springs Mind Springs branch Nov. 11.

Will’s work in advocating for mental health needs in rural Colorado through legislation stood out in the eyes of the council.

“He’s continually expressed interest in supporting behavioral health,” Colorado Behavioral Healthcare Council Deputy Director and Chief Strategy Officer Frank Cornelia said.

The council highlighted four bills Will has worked on that made him an ideal selection for the 2021 award. “Licensing Behavioral Health Entities” was Will’s first legislation tie to the field, filling in for Bob Rankin when he moved over to the state senate.

In the last legislative session, Will sponsored three bills tied to behavioral health. One covered Medicaid reimbursement for pharmacists. Another was entitled “Behavioral Health Crisis Response Training.” In the wake of wildfires and the shooting at a King Soopers in Boulder, Will was a prime sponsor on a bill entitled “Community Behavioral Health Disaster Program.”

The act incorporated behavioral health resources into the state’s disaster response plans for events like fires, shootings, floods and others.

“Unfortunately, in some of our communities, some of these disasters are common ones,” Mind Springs CEO Sharon Raggio said. “Some of the scale of these disasters are growing. This will allow the state to set up a fund that can be drawn from to offer free ongoing counseling services for people impacted by the disaster.”

The council also highlighted three other criteria used to determine this year’s honorees for the award: leading on the issue, working across the aisle and local responsiveness.

Will, a Republican, cosponsored the disaster program bill with Democrat Lisa Cutter out of District 25, representing Jefferson County. Cutter was also an honoree for the award. Leslie Herod, also a Democrat representing District 8 and Denver County, was the third legislator selected for the award.

Will is the lone representative from the Western Slope and was also recognized for his efforts addressing the behavioral health needs of rural Coloradans.

“It’s such a great need in the rural areas,” Will said. “Some of the urban areas have a lot more help, a lot more options that rural areas don’t.”

Will highlighted accessibility and stigma as two barriers to behavioral health care in rural areas. He called telehealth the “greatest thing to happen to mental health care in rural Colorado ever.”

He has been proactive about reaching out to local bodies like Mind Springs for advice on legislation, Raggio said, adding that the two are in “good communication.”

Will said his priority of mental well-being comes from his wildlife background.

“It’s an honor and a privilege to get that recognition, but the real honor is to serve the people of House District 57,” Will said. “Working on behavioral health issues and stuff like that is a benefit to the district I serve.”

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