Colorado GOP Lawmakers Criticize Suicide-Proofing Bathrooms at Mental Health Hospitals as “Wasteful” Spending

Gov. John Hickenlooper’s administration requested $235,109 to repair nine bathrooms


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A request for $235,109 to make nine bathrooms at a state mental-health hospital suicide-proof is prompting outrage from Republican lawmakers who suggest it is evidence of wasteful government spending.

The reaction to the proposal in the context of a $28 billion budget illustrates the intensity of the spending battles expected in the 2017 session as Colorado lawmakers negotiate a deal to find more money for big-ticket priorities, such as a potential $500 million bond to improve roads and transit.

Gov. John Hickenlooper’s administration asked the General Assembly to add the money for the hospital repairs to the current budget year after an unsuccessful suicide attempt at the Colorado Mental Health Institute in Pueblo.

Last year, an employee at the hospital — which serves people with severe mental illness committed for treatment — stopped a patient from tying clothing to a shower head to make a ligature.

A Department of Human Services review of the incident determined that a replacement of the fixtures at the Pueblo and Denver hospitals was necessary as part of an ongoing suicide-prevention program.

Cost is $630 for the new valve or $1,024 for a shower that is disability compliant, according to the agency. But tearing apart the walls and floors and installing new pipes added to the projected price tag for the repairs to nine bathrooms, including 12 showers and four bathtubs.

“Are you using the same contractor that the feds and military does that costs us a million (dollars) a toilet?” asked Sen. Jerry Sonneberg, R-Sterling. “You simply do the math, it’s $20,000 a shower. Couldn’t you remodel a whole bathroom for that?”

Sonnenberg later took to Twitter to say of the request: “You can’t make this stuff up.” He included a photo of the budget request document and wrote “NO” at the top.

Rep. Jon Becker, R-Fort Morgan, suggested the price tag is too much and remains unconvinced it is necessary, even as he acknowledges that preventing suicide “is a great thing.”




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