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Governor to announce plans to redesign Colo. mental health services & system

Emergency personnel respond to shooting

DENVER — On Tuesday Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper will introduce a plan to redesign Colorado’s mental health services and support system. The plan is called “Strengthening Colorado’s Mental Health System: A Plan to Safeguard All Coloradans.”

Mental health is a hot topic following a year full of tragic mass shootings in the United States. While only 5-8 percent of all Americans suffer from a true mental illness, mental health is something experts say we should all be talking about, out in the open.

George DelGrosso is the CEO of the Colorado Behavioral Healthcare Council. He says, “We really do need to sit down and talk about this area of health care very openly together. Let’s see what we can try to do before people go on and do something like commit a crime or something horrible happens like we’ve seen too often in this country.”

But he warns not all people with mental illness are violent. He says the misunderstanding leads to a greater stigma and makes it harder for those in need to seek help.

DelGrosso points out that in Colorado we have mental health first aid classes for the public designed to help people identify those in need and get them to the appropriate resources.

He and Clinical Psychologist Susan Heitler agree that learning warning signs is important, especially for children who often have more resources for care.

Heitler says, “We need to pay attention to the woodworkers, the ones that just blend in to the woodwork. Almost all the time when you read about Virginia Tech, Columbine, the kids who were involved were the ones who had no real relationship with teachers or other kids.”

Heitler shared six signs that a child or young adult might benefit from talking with a therapy professional.
1. Isolation; no friends, no work or studying project
2. Recent loss: of a girlfriend, of a job, or any steady element in his or her life
3. Drawings of violence: things blowing up, or dismembered bodies
4. Violent interests: websites about explosives, violent games
5. History of being bullied: even a single event
6. Change in personality: especially toward more angry or odd, says odd things, seems more isolated than normal, talks about getting back at people, preoccupied with a project they won’t share with you, or suddenly more energized after seeming depressed

DelGrosso says of children or adults, “Help them to get some help. Be supportive of them. Don’t be afraid of it.”

And the call for more mental health discussion is being echoed in a blog going viral.

It’s written by a mother who says she is sharing her story, “because I am Adam Lanza’s mother. I am Dylan Klebold’s and Eric Harris’s mother. I am James Holmes’s mother. I am Jared Loughner’s mother. I am Seung-Hui Cho’s mother. And these boys—and their mothers—need help. In the wake of another horrific national tragedy, it’s easy to talk about guns. But it’s time to talk about mental illness.”

The Jefferson Center for Mental Health is offering free drop-in counseling Monday and Tuesday.

South Jeffco
5:00 – 8:00 pm
Jefferson Center for Mental Health
9200 West Cross Drive, Suite 421
Littleton, CO 80123
(303) 425-0300

Wheat Ridge
5:00 – 8:00 pm
Jefferson Center for Mental Health
4851 Independence Street, 1st Floor
Wheat Ridge, CO 80033
(303) 425-0300