Senate Bill 021 will provide reentry services to individuals leaving the criminal justice system with mental health conditions. The bill provides $2.7 million to offer housing vouchers, employment services, Medicaid enrollment services, mental health treatment including psychiatric and counseling services, case management, medication monitoring, peer specialist support, and recreational activities.

Everyone deserves the hope that recovery and wellness are possible, and providing these basic resources can ensure that people with mental health conditions that are leaving the criminal justice system have the tools to find their own wellness and become more self-sufficient. It can be incredibly difficult to find work, housing, and access to care for individuals leaving the criminal justice system.

According to a 2007 survey from the Piton Foundation, “the DOC projects that one out of every five people in prison will suffer from a serious mental illness” (2007, p6). They found that in Colorado 59% of people leaving the Colorado criminal justice system have mental health concerns, such as while 11% live with serious mental health conditions. The same survey shared that 48% of parolees found accessible housing to be their greatest barrier. 49% of individuals on parole stated that financial independence and lack of funds was a significant barrier, 39% listed finding a job as a significant barrier, and 32% said that getting a Colorado ID was a significant barrier (Piton Foundation, 2007).

We cannot expect people to succeed after time in the criminal justice system if we do not provide them with the tools to overcome the many barriers that exist.

Please call your Senator and tell them to vote YES on this important legislation! Find your legislators here: http://leg.colorado.gov/find-my-legislator

If you have experienced difficulty with reentry after spending time in the criminal justice system and are interested in testifying for this bill, please contact Aubrey Boggs, the Advocacy and Outreach Coordinator for the Colorado Mental Wellness Network at aubrey@coloradomentalwellnessnetwork or at (720)842-9222.

References:

Piton Foundation. (2007). Study Portrays Struggles People Face After Prison. The Piton Perspective , pp. 1–8.

Check out our virtual advocacy team (link below) for more information on mental health legislation, calls to action, and learning materials for effective advocacy!

http://fb.me/CMWNadvocacyteam

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Amanda Kearney-Smith

I founded the Network as the Executive Director in 2011 and, before that, I was a program director at Mental Health Colorado. My educational background is in Developmental Psychology, but living with bipolar disorder has drawn me to this work. I'm most passionate about protecting the civil rights and dignity of others. In my free time, I love reading, practicing yoga, and spending time with my family here and in Illinois.

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