By Jen Marnowski
Special to the Daily Record
One of the biggest mental health issues the Colorado General Assembly will address this session is the placement of individuals on involuntary mental health holds in jails. Current law allows law enforcement to put a person having a mental health crisis in jail, without charges, if they are a danger to themselves or others. Colorado is one of only six states where this practice is still legal.
The bill known as SB17-207 (Senate Bill 207) would stop this practice and improve the system of care set up to help people in crisis.
A hearing was held on the bill on Wednesday. The bill passed unanimously in the Senate Judiciary committee with a 5 to zero vote. Senator Daniel Kagan (D) and Senator John Cooke (R) sponsored the bill.
“To jail someone is only cruel and inhumane … please support this bill,” said Senator Kagan.
The committee listened to dozens of stories from people with mental illness, law enforcement officers, psychiatrists and organizations involved in crafting this bill. All were in agreement that this practice must end.
Jennifer Hill, a mental health advocate from the Denver area, described how she felt when she was jailed during a time of crisis. She’s now in recovery.
“It’s ineffective and it’s traumatizing,” said Hill. “As you consider this bill, think about your neighbors, your family, you wouldn’t want anyone treated this way.”