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?
Yes, I do support the push for a supervised use site because we must use every approach possible to help prevent opioid related deaths and prevent the spread of HIV and other diseases spread by the use of infected needles. Criminalization is not the right approach to decreasing drug use. I would pursue a “housing first” approach for people with addictions trying to step away from homelessness.
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?
I have personally been affected by our cash bail system, my mental and physical health were greatly impacted. Once, I even spend a night in jail for not appearing in court when my dog got out, I could not post bail because I had no money. I have been vocal about how unjust our cash bail system is. I am in favor of ending cash bail in Denver and have put this on my literature!
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?
I am open to this idea and would love to consider getting behind it if it is done in the right way. I do not think that charging people with crimes will reduce use of tobacco. I can also see that those who would receive these citations are more likely to be people of color. If the enforcement is on the point of sale not the smoker, I am for increasing the smoking age to 21.
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?
In my community of Montbello, there is no facility dedicated to mental health. It is a clear and pressing need in my community. We need one. Any organization that gets the Caring 4 Denver funds must have a serious presence in Montbello. I had group therapy when I was a young adult for over a year, and it worked wonders for me, but it was really hard getting to where it was provided. Community rooms in libraries can be a good place to get mental health group therapy and other services to our community. Identifying the need for someone to seek mental health is another area where we can do better as a city. I would see if it is possible for Department of Human Services employees to ask clients seeking food assistance and other programs, if they would like information on mental health services, just like they ask if you want to register to vote a client would sign to opt-out of getting information.
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?
Housing-first policies have proven to work best in cities like Salt Lake, and they would work best here. We must overturn the camping ban and stop criminalizing homelessness. We should also build more public housing, provide more housing for vouchers, and directly subsidise rent or mortgage payments residents in risk of becoming homeless. Any foreclosed home should be earmarked as an affordable housing unit in perpetuity. I will pursue, in essence, affirmative action policies in housing to ensure equity in determining who gets into our new affordable housing units.
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?
We should divest from fossil fuel stocks, create a public bank, and ban fracking in Denver.