NAMI board member Tyra Sandoval speaks at the nonprofit's annual fundraising breakfast.
As Mental Health Month begins, some advocates are celebrating what they regard as recent successes — such as the April 29 passage of House Bill 1269
, which strengthens enforcement of parity laws that require insurers to prioritize mental health care to the same extent they do physical health.
And Senate Bill 222
, which passed April 30, creates incentives for providers who treat individuals with severe mental health or substance use disorders, as well as strengthening a "safety net system" to expand high-intensity behavioral health treatment programs.
But daunting challenges remain, as highlighted by speakers at the May 2 fundraising breakfast for National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) Colorado Springs.
"I'm going to share some numbers with you this morning, and you need to buckle up: 445,000 Coloradans have a mental illness that is going untreated," said Tyra Sandoval, a NAMI board member and local realtor. "181,000 of those people report they sought treatment but were unable to get it. 51,000 alone live here in El Paso County. 152 people completed suicide in El Paso County in 2018, and seven of those were teens. 112 were men."
El Paso County Coroner Dr. Leon Kelly, the vice president of NAMI's board, spoke about his own struggle coping with a family member's mental illness.
"I knew what it was like to feel as if your only two options are to watch the person you care for drown or to hold on knowing inevitably you would drown with them," Kelly said. "No one should feel that lost. Every family deserves a place to go for help, and with NAMI, they do."
Kelly highlighted recent local projects informed and supported by NAMI: teen suicide prevention efforts, the formation of the El Paso County Sheriff's Office crisis intervention team, and the launch of the Man Therapy campaign
, which aims to destigmatize mental illness for men.
NAMI provides a variety of free mental health programs and services
for the community, including support groups and classes for family members of people with mental health issues.
Your reminder this month: Don't forget you can call the free, confidential Colorado Crisis Services phone line at any time if you find yourself in crisis, or just need a friendly ear. Their number: 1-844-493-TALK (8255). You can also text TALK to 38255 to speak with a trained mental health professional, or chat online
AspenPointe also operates walk-in crisis center locations at:
115 S. Parkside Dr.
(Open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week)
6071 E. Woodmen Road, Suite 135
St. Francis Medical Center, North Care Building
(Open 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday - Friday and 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday)
The state Department of Human Services, in partnership with Mental Health Colorado, recently launched the Mental Wellness and Addiction Recovery Guide website for people considering mental health or substance use treatment. You can check it out at https://cowellnessrecovery.org/