Common Ground on Wednesday: Mental health and the law |

Common Ground on Wednesday: Mental health and the law

Randy Essex
About 60 residents attended the first Post Independent Common Ground forum of 2017. The second session is Wednesday at the Glenwood library community room.
Post Independent |

I invite you to join us Wednesday for the Post Independent’s second Common Ground conversation of the year.

A panel of local experts will convene at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday at the Glenwood Springs Branch Library community room to discuss a vexing and painful intersection of disruptive behavior. Are some disruptive and antisocial incidents driven by mental illness, substance abuse, crime or a combination — and how do we as a community deal with it?

Obviously, mental illness can drive substance abuse, and either can spawn criminal conduct that must be addressed. But in three years of covering news in Garfield County, I’ve seen a depth of compassion for troubled people that’s greater than in cities where I’ve worked. There, people whose internal pain causes social problems are relegated to institutions — civil and criminal — or the streets, and they become invisible.

In Garfield County towns, we see them and many residents feel their pain. Before the Grand Avenue bridge project restricted movement in downtown Glenwood, the town was debating how to deal with — including how to help — vagrant beggars. In Carbondale, hardly overrun by homelessness, a coalition was formed to help. The death of an intoxicated homeless man there this month prompted sympathy and sadness, not an urban shrug.

So questions for our panel Wednesday include: What are the considerations and the right approaches for law enforcement and medical workers on the front line? How do individuals and families find the right help?

Discussing the range of these issues will be Jackie Skramstad, regional director for Mind Springs Health, who has been involved in efforts to create a detox center in Glenwood; Garfield County Sheriff Lou Vallario; Bruce Christiansen, executive director at Mountain Valley Developmental Services and former Glenwood mayor; Dr. Kevin Coleman, medical director of Grand River Health; and Sarah Cox, director of the Grand River emergency department.

The Post Independent is holding quarterly Common Ground discussions this year because we believe that focusing on local issues cuts through the divide plaguing state and national politics. While a conservative or liberal viewpoint might affect the solutions a person sees to these issues, we really all want to help our communities and neighbors. That’s part of the magic of smaller communities. We see each other rather than shouting at caricatures created on social media.

At our first session, held in March, we heard from a range of local leaders about what they see as the most critical local issues. That informed the topics for the rest of the year.

After Wednesday’s session, we plan to have a robust and respectful immigration forum in August, and a look at transportation and upvalley-downvalley relations in early December — hopefully after the new bridge is open and Rifle residents and Aspen employers have learned more about their common interests.

Join us Wednesday at the library to hear from a group of folks who experience the issues at hand in direct ways that most of us are lucky enough to avoid, but are nonetheless affected by virtue of caring about others and our community. If you can’t make it, we plan to use Facebook Live to stream at least part of the discussion on our Facebook page.

Randy Essex is publisher and editor of the Post Independent.

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