Mary Beth Susman – Healthier Denver

Mary Beth Susman

Running for: District 5 (incumbent)
Supervised-Use Sites & the Opioid Crisis

Nationally, people are now more-likely to die from an opioid overdose than from a car crash. In Colorado, opioid-related deaths have tripled in the past fifteen years, and Denver’s rates of opioid- related deaths are markedly higher than that of the rest of the state. Last year, Denver City Council authorized a pilot supervised-use site, which would provide a safe space with trained professionals and medical supplies for people who use drugs but aren’t yet in recovery. Such sites are proven to drastically reduce harm and prevent death by overdose. They provide a pathway to recovery and there has been a positive association between using a supervised use site and starting in addiction treatment.


Do you support the continuance of the city’s plan to open a supervised use site in Denver (pending state legislation)?

In addition to your support or opposition of supervised use sites, what are your plans to address the opioid crisis in Denver?

It looks like this issue died in the state legislature for this year, but yes I supported the plan.  I also hope that this year will provide us more research data on its effectiveness. I learned that in Denver about 80% of opioid deaths occur inside a home. I’d like to work on that problem even more, particularly because of how it must be affecting my constituents.

Cash Bail

When people are accused of a crime, they often spend extraordinary amounts of time in jail because they are not able to afford and quickly pay even low amounts of bail. The longer a person sits behind bars, the higher their chance of experiencing physical and mental health issues due to inadequate care is. Additional consequences can include loss of employment and/or housing. The bond industry further exacerbates the health effects of the cash bail system by exploiting low-income people and people of color, adding stress and fear to an already difficult situation, and worsening the inequitable negative mental and physical health outcomes of the accused.


Do you support ending cash bail in Denver? Why or why not?

What other policies would you pursue to reduce the detrimental health effects of the existing criminal justice system?

Absolutely.  As for other effects, I see that our jails have become de factor mental health institutions and our officers mental health workers.  I have and will continue to work to strengthen and broaden our mental health system, continue to approve increases in budget for 1st responders to get training, hire social and mental health workers.


Tobacco & E-Cigarettes

Colorado’s kids use e-cigarettes at twice the national rate and 91,000 of our youth will die prematurely from the health effects of tobacco. Annual health care costs in our state from the effects of smoking are $1.89 billion. Tobacco use remains the leading cause of preventable death and disability in Denver. There are a number of proven ways to stem the tobacco and e-cigarette crisis: licensure of tobacco and e-cigarette sales, increasing taxes on those products, and raising the age of purchase to 21 are some the most effective.


Do you support raising the age of purchase to 21 for cigarettes and other tobacco products such as chewing tobacco?

Do you support enacting licensure requirements and increasing the taxes on tobacco and nicotine products for the city of Denver?

Yes and Yes.  Although the campaign against cigarettes  that made it uncool for teenagers (and everyone) had the biggest effect on decreasing use by all, more than age restriction, advertising bans,  health warnings combined.

Mental Health Care

The need for improved mental and behavioral health care in our city is vast: 20 percent of Denverites deal with a daily mental health or addiction issue. In Colorado, suicide is the leading cause of death for those between the ages of 10 and 24 and 1-in-8 Denver Public School students have seriously thought about suicide. Currently, only 40 percent of people with daily mental health or addiction issues receive adequate care. Recognizing the severity of the issue, Denver voters in 2018 overwhelmingly passed Initiated Ordinance 301, also known as Caring 4 Denver. The 0.25 percent sales tax will fund mental health services, facilities, suicide prevention, opioid and substance use prevention, first-responder training, and more.


A to-be-determined nonprofit organization will be administering the Caring 4 Denver funds. How would you prioritize utilizing the funds to address mental and behavioral health and addiction needs in the city of Denver? What can the city do beyond Caring 4 Denver to address these issues?

I voted against the Caring 4 Denver issue because I think it adds just another darn layer to people receiving care.  Also it was another sales tax increase which is a regressive tax where lower income people will pay a larger percentage of their income for the service than higher income people will. And the accountability, criteria, expected outcomes of the non-profit organization are murky.  I might have voted for it if it increased the funding for Denver Health’s mental health services, Denver Mental Health Center services and housing inventory, and other extant mental health providers directly, and used another source of funds than a sales tax. I would rely on our mental health professionals to prioritize the use of the funds.


Individuals Experiencing Homelessness

In Denver, the number of individuals experiencing unsheltered homelessness between 2015 and 2018 has increased 58 percent – from 827 to 1,308 people. Unsheltered means persons not in places meant for habitation, i.e. streets, bridges, abandoned buildings, and outdoor camps. Moreover, 30 percent of the Metro Denver homeless population reported experiencing chronic homelessness. The City of Denver is seeking solutions to assist individuals experiencing homelessness in our community that strike the right balance between housing options, shelters, and resources for these individuals to transition into a stable environment long-term.


How do we best serve the needs of people who are experiencing homelessness in Denver?

What specific policies would you pursue and/or ordinances would you modify?

We need to build homes for homeless people.  “Housing First” has been shown to be the best route out of homelessness.  In the meantime, we have to up our game in the shelters, making them more commodious, having shelters that allow couples, and give them some privacy, shelters that allow pets, etc.  The city council has approved about $30 M/year to the effort to provide affordable housing. A similar infusion of funds is needed for the homeless situation. And for those with severe mental health problems, or drug addictions, we need to increase our funding for places with wrap around social and medical services.

Climate Change

Colorado is facing disproportionate effects of climate change. Here in Denver, we are seeing substantial increases in the number of days each year topping 90 degrees Fahrenheit. Those temperatures exacerbate illnesses like asthma and cardiovascular disease, cause earlier snow melt, increase ozone pollution, and worsen long-standing water supply problems. The city has created the 80×50 Climate Action Plan, which highlights key strategies in the three sectors most responsible for greenhouse gas emissions in the city: buildings, transportation, and electricity generation. Denver’s long-term greenhouse gas reduction goal is to reduce emissions 80 percent below 2005 baselines levels by 2050. Today, many clean energy technologies, such as wind, solar, and battery storage, are available.


Do you support the city’s 80×50 Climate Action Plan?

What additional policies or practices should be implemented to protect our air, water, and the public’s health?

Yes, and I led the city council committee on the Green Roofs initiative to increase the scope of building construction that reduces carbon, the urban heat island effect, the use of fossil fuel energy.  I also encouraged the building department to expect that new construction have accommodation for electric cars such as charging stations. We are replacing the city’s fleet of automobiles to electric as  we go. I am working with urban drainage to create more permeable spaces in our neighborhoods and daylighting underground streams so that storm water can be cleaned better as it flows to the Platte. I am the council representative on  the Metro Wastewater Reclamation District , a body made up of representatives from the greater metropolitan area that work on cleaning up all the water in our region. I sat on the Urban Drainage and Flood Control District for four years, a regional group also managing  water. I could bore you to tears about clean water practices as they effect municipalities.