Jamie Giellis – Healthier Denver

Jamie Giellis

Running for: Mayor
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?

No, I do not support supervised use sites in Denver at this time. There are too many unanswered questions as to how the program will be implemented and what type of community process will be involved before Denver commits to supervised-use sites.

This is an issue all over the country and has gotten worse in the last decade. I will commit to building a coalition with other cities across the US to push the Federal Government to take the lead in a centralized approach to treat those who are addicted and to keep a new generation from becoming addicted. I will also work with cities to define how we can leverage resources and create comprehensive strategies to address the issues thoughtfully. As mayor, I will work with non-profits working on addiction and this issue, law enforcement, Denver Health Medical Center, the state, other cities in the region, Denver Public Schools and the private sector to increase treatment centers for those who are addicted and to provide education around prescription medication and the use of illicit drugs. I believe the city’s lawsuit against pharmaceutical companies is a good move, and I also applaud other cities who are using technology and data to drive delivery of services to overcome deaths related to overdose.


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?

Yes, I support ending cash bail in Denver. This policy makes it difficult for people with less resources to be released while waiting for their due process. The ripple effect of this policy includes possible loss of job, lack of a sustainable income for families and loss of housing. Too many people awaiting trial, but not yet convicted, stay in jail due to their inability to make bail. This directly impacts low income people and is not consistent with our laws of innocent until proven guilty.

As mayor, I will conduct an audit of our criminal justice system and see where we can add mental health workers, family social workers and job training. Incarceration impacts the people in jail but also their families and communities. I will work to stop the school to prison pipeline by working for DPS and the Denver Police Department on early intervention and redirection for children under 18.


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

I do support raising the age to purchase all tobacco products to 21. I also support developing a plan with other stakeholders including the Denver Police Department, Denver Public Schools, business owners and parents to ensure any new policy is enforceable and that people know about it. Creating policy in a vacuum with no public support is the wrong approach on this issue. Currently, schools and parents are having a hard time keeping Juuls (flavored vaping devices) out of the hands of students under 18. Stores are selling to kids and there is little to no enforcement of current laws.

I am reluctant to take a position on a ballot measure to raise taxes on any item before I have read and understood the language of what a new tax increase will do. What will the tax money go for, who will over see it, how much is the tax and how will it help those with nicotine addiction? I will need the answers to all those questions first before making a commitment. That said, I am not opposed to looking at a tax on tobacco products, I just need more information.


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?

As mayor working with the staff and board of this new non-profit, I will prioritize getting more mental health workers into our schools and jails. I will advocate for Denver Public Schools to be a partner in educating students, teachers and administrators on the signs of someone in distress. Mental healthcare should be part of our self-care regimen starting when children are young but we need the leadership to remove the stigma that surrounds it. The city can be a strong and vocal advocate by running PSA’s and being a strong advocate for access to mental health.

Additionally, I am committed to funding within the city a comprehensive strategy to provide services to our homeless and to coordinate service delivery with all our partners in Denver, including this organization. The coordinate of services will include getting people to appropriate mental health support, healthcare, job training, etc. to provide a hand-up to these members of our community.


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 bet serve the needs of people who are experiencing homelessness in Denver? What specific policies would you pursue and/or ordinances would you modify?

I would address homelessness in the first 100 days of my administration. Working with other homeless advocates I will develop a plan to develop a housing first policy that gets our unhoused neighbors off the streets and into a safe place. Denver has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on “homeless sweeps” and yet the numbers of people living on our streets is rising. As mayor I will:

  • Repeal the camping ban (however I do not support the Right to Survive bill on the ballot this May because I believe it goes too far).

  • Work with communities to find innovative solutions for temporary (e.g. tiny homes, sanctioned camping sites, convertible housing) and permanent housing options, and ensure the housing comes with wrap-around support services;

  • Coordinate service providers and delivery of services to the homeless community, including mental health support, addiction support, and pathways to employment;

  • Develop a mobile social worker network who solicits the homeless daily to understand their needs and works with them to access the appropriate agencies including healthcare, benefits, identification, job training and applying for housing;

  • Discourage community groups from feeding the homeless in public spaces such as civic center park, instead partnering with them to help transport people to centers for food where they then have access to other services;

  • Expand Denver’s day work program for the homeless;

  • Increase trash receptacles and traveling bathrooms, showers and laundry facilities. The increase in human waste and trash on our sidewalks is unacceptable and the indignity of having to use the streets as a bathroom is not acceptable in 2019.

  • Be a leader in building a regional coalition with surrounding cities to find solutions that are long term.


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?

I absolutely support it and I believe we need to push farther. In addition,  I am advocating for the following:

Advance Denver’s Commitment to the Paris Climate Agreement

In 2015, the U.S. – along with 200 other countries – committed to the Paris Climate Agreement, an ambitious global action plan to fight climate change. While there has been announcement of federal intent to withdraw from the agreement, municipalities have and can continue to step up their efforts to guide their cities in meeting Agreement goals locally. I will deliver on this commitment by:

  • Establishing a solar economy in Denver to provide energy to public facilities across the city, and incentivize private sector investments in solar by developing creative financial partnerships
  • Eliminate our dependence on fossil fuels by significantly investing in transit, bike lanes and sidewalks
  • Restore the intent of the Green Roof Initiative that was passed by voters and subsequently dismantled by the city
  • Restart the “Mile High Million” program to plant one million trees in Denver
  • Continue to expand the city’s electric charging station program and find ways to encourage the purchase and use of electric vehicles

Expand Denver’s Parks and Green Spaces

Our previous generations of leaders made bold moves to acquire and protect park land and public space. Today, we are giving up these spaces to development and private interests. Parks, green space and open space are a right of our citizens, and serve to unite people and build community. As your mayor I will:

  • Commit to adding more parks and open spaces, especially in neighborhoods where parks are deficient and overused. Parks and green space must be integrated into both our land use planning and our transportation planning, ensuring every neighborhood has access to them.
  • Incorporate green spaces into all city-backed developments and city-owned property
  • Reduce heat island effects across the City by planting and promoting low-water trees and native grasses
  • Care for our green spaces using the best environmental practices, specifically eliminating the use of pollinator killing pesticides
  • Open parks to more diverse uses and protect them from abuses. Public spaces are essential community assets and should always be safe for families and kids.

Expand Denver’s Recycling Program and Expand Composting

Currently Denver’s waste diversion rate is less than 20% – we can do so much better. Doing better means making trash removal not the only choice, but rather making both recycling and composting an easier choice. It also means Denver must lead by example. I will commit to:

  • Moving the needle on Denver’s shamefully low rate of recycling (our rate is half that of cities such as Austin and Seattle) by instituting weekly residential pickup of recycling rather than current bi-monthly pickup and requiring apartment buildings to provide recycling for residents.
  • Expanding the compost program for all residents and businesses in Denver and waiving pickup fees.
  • Ensure that all city facilities mandate recycling and composting. Currently, for example, none of Denver’s parks have recycling cans. If Denver is to lead as a city, we must lead by example.

Clean Up Our Water

Water is our most precious resource here in Denver. From our drinking water to our rivers and streams, I’m committed to ensuring we protect it. As your mayor, I will:

  • Treat the South Platte River and other lakes, rivers, and streams as natural assets and not dumping grounds. The city will invest in water quality investments and bank improvements to revive native waterways.
  • Require every public street project be include bioswales and green stormwater retention and treatment to ensure that only clean stormwater goes into our rivers. Currently private developers are required to build stormwater treatment within their own developments, but the city does not require this of itself.  
  • Work closely with Denver Water to ensure we have adequate water supply to support current and future growth, requiring cooperative planning as part of our zoning and density strategy.

Clean Up Our Air

Denver’s infamous “brown cloud” has returned, after years of fighting it. We are slipping backwards in our air quality, driven by allowing density and growth to happen without bold climate standards and investments in transit. We’re done slipping back and comprising the air we breathe. As your mayor I will partner with CDOT, local utilities, and local manufacturers to reduce emissions, odors, and pollutants across our city. No Denver family should have to worry about breathing in dangerous pollutants on their way to school, work, or play. We will set bold goals to reclaim our air quality for us and for future generations.