District 1 – Healthier Denver

District 1

Sabrina D’Agosta

Sabrina D'Agosta

Running for: District 1
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 am strongly in favor of the city’s plan to open a supervised use site. As an intermittently homeless teenager, I personally witnessed the effect of heroin addiction on many friends and saw the devastating impacts it had on their lives and their loved ones. Sadly, I have seen this epidemic grow over time through my volunteer service with the homeless community. I believe that supervised use sites are not only the best way to reduce harm and prevent overdose, but they also prevent the spread of contagious diseases through needle sharing and reduce exposure to other dangerous behaviors and environments. Further, they begin to build trusting relationships with the treatment community, so that people suffering from addiction feel they have a safe place to go, options for treatment, and people who care about them and will advocate for them. I believe it is imperative that we talk more with Denver residents more about supervised use sites and the opioid epidemic, which I think are widely misunderstood. I think we need to work closely with Denver Public Schools to ensure our yound people are learning about the dangers of opioids and what they can do when they know someone struggling with drug use and addiction. We also can and should partner with our local hospitals and health care providers in a public education campaign about pain management and opioid use. I would like to work with Denver’s Road Home and the many nonprofit organizations in the Denver metro region to create street teams that actively engage our homeless community and those suffering from addiction and work to connect them with treatment services. I think it is imperative that these treatment services not be cost prohibitive to the people seeking their services, if not free. I’m thrilled that Denver voters approved Caring 4 Denver, which provides $45 million annually to help prevent and treat opioid addiction (along with other mental health and addiction services). I also think Denver can do more to obtain U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ grants for prevention, treatment and recovery. I would also like to see Denver’s environmental health department collecting and analyzing data that could help more rapidly respond to the crisis.

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 agree completely that the cash bail system inequitably impacts and exploits people with lower incomes, people of color and people who do not speak English — all of whom are already inequitably represented in their likelihood to be incacerated in the first place. These disparities combined with the well documented health consequences of being incarcerated justify the need to abolish our cash bail system. I would very much like to see us take a proactive approach that helps reduce the inequities in who is incarcerated in the first place, through reducing our school to prison pipeline, improving police training, and limiting the unnecessary use of incarceration for mental illness and substance abuse, for starters. In addition, we can do more to ensure that people understand their rights and the process when they are incarcerated, including providing translation and interpretation services. We can and should allow people who are incarcerated in Denver to have visitation. We should ensure our jails are not overcrowded and that they are adequately monitored. I would like to see the Office of the Independent Monitor have advocates for the incarcerated who can both help monitor conditions, provide guidance and escalate problems in real time.

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 firmly support licensure requirements for tobacco and e-cigarette sales, as well as increasing taxes on those products. I generally do not subscribe to the use of age alone as a means by which to determine one’s decision making abilities, however, I would support other efforts to better educate youth and improve prevention.

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?

The Caring 4 Denver ballot language indicates that the Denver mayor, district attorney and city council president will appoint the nonprofit board members to administer these important funds. These board members are to be appointed based on their expertise in mental health and addiction services, and as such, I would defer to their expertise for prioritizing the use of these funds within the constraints of the ballot language and voter intent, and would ask for the City Council to be briefed on those plans. Beyond Caring 4 Denver, as I mentioned above, I think Denver could do more to apply for U.S. Department of Health and human Services grants. We can partner with healthcare providers, nonprofit organizations, the business community and Denver Public Schools to creatively problem solve and build a supportive coalition, increase public education, unify efforts and make the best use of available funding.

 

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?

I experienced intermittent homelessness as a teenager and have spent my life volunteering to help those in our community expereincing homelessness. It’s imperative that we have an evidence-based, comprehensive approach to addressing homelessness in our community. First and foremost, we should be focusing efforts on preventing people from becoming homeless. We can do much more to create more affordable housing units in Denver (including the use of inclusionary zoning), to improve wages and to decrease major household expenses like transportation. I believe city council should strengthen renters’ protections and assistance that would help ensure people
aren’t evicted from their homes on short notice. In order to effectively help people out of homelessness, we must look at the root causes. Efforts like Caring 4 Denver will aid in funding mental health and addiction issues that often lead to chronic homelessness when people don’t get the help they need — and we can do more, as noted in question 4 above. I’m also a big fan of the strategies proposed by the new executive director of Denver’s Road home. We need to work systematically to reform our shelter system so that it doesn’t break up already vulnerable families (which make up a large portion of our homeless population in Denver), so that they are safe places and so that they are the first step in connecting people to the types of services they need, including mental health or addiction treatment, workforce development and retraining services, and matching people with transitional housng options. I think city council has made progress on creating more transitional housing options in Denver, but we need more units and we need them quickly. I think Denver can be more creative about how to acquire and create more public housing. And I would like to see us invest in outreach teams that work to build trusting relationships with people experiencing homelessness, so we are better able to identify their needs and connect them with appropriate services. I also
believe we need to be working with our regional neighbors in the metro area to ensure alignment and coordination, because homelessness doesn’t stop at our city’s borders.

Lastly, we need to stop criminalizing homelessness. I am opposed to Denver’s current camping ban as it stands because I believe it is inhum. Having said that, I am also opposed to the Right to Survive initiative as written because I do not believe it does anything to address homelessness either, and I fear it puts already vulnerable people in even worse situations where they would be less able to connect with the services they need.

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, I support the 80×50 Climate Action Plan, though I think it is too long term and would like to see more ambitious goals in the near term. I think we can be working more closely with our partners at RTD, Denver Water, Xcel, businesses and developers to more rapidly address greenhouse gas emissions through creative solutions.

One of the three priorities in my policy platform is to advocate for Safe, Healthy and Welcoming Communities. I believe that part of a healthy community is one that acknowledges the very real threat of climate change, and doing our part to ensure we reduce our environmental impact. One of my other platform priorities is to advocate for Smart Growth, which includes improving transit and mobility opitons and creating more walkable, mixed-use communities so we can get in our cars less, which will help decrease CO2 emissions. Denver can be aggressively investing in deploying clean, renewable energy sources in any project that utilizes public tax dollars, and incentivizing the public and business community to do so as well. We can and should be working with partners to transition our existing energy workforce with training for clean energy jobs. And we should be working closely with Xcel, Denver Water and others to develop clean energy, which creates new high quality jobs, lowers energy costs, and improves our environment and thus public health.

I would also like to see Denver dramatically increase waste diversion through recycling and composting, which is now well below the already low national average (34%) at just 21%. Many people live here because they want to enjoy our environment, and I believe a public education campaign to help people understand how far behind we are in waste diversion would be extremely helpful. Denver is one of the few metro area cities that doesn’t make homeowners pay for their own trash removal by private companies, and I think we could make the case to our residents to pay for trash removal over a certain amount, much like we are charged more for water over a certain usage. I also think we should make compost removal free to help further reduce what goes to the landfill. I think it would be interesting to see if we could pay for composting service with the funds we could charge for trash overages.

Finally, I believe parks are an essential part of our quality of life and feeling of connectedness with our neighbors, and thus an integral part of our environmental and public health. I’m extremely concerned with recent reports that Denver is losing our parklands and open spaces. We need to invest in this kind of infrastructure in our neighborhoods, and we should be using the city’s growth and development as a means by which to acquire and increase these community spaces, as well as improve the existing ones. One example of such creative thinking is the current BID proposal to turn the Federal/Colfax cloverleaf bridge into a park. I would love to reimagine some of our city streets as green parkways for pedestrians and cyclists, connecting our neighborhoods and improving our environment.

David Sabados

David Sabados

Running for: District 1
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?

 

I support supervised use sites as a means to save lives and help those with addiction get treatment.  As the state bill has been pulled, this effort will have to be put on hold, and the city should explore other options in the meantime, including long term housing for those experiencing homeless including wraparound services for drug addiction, mental health, and basic healthcare.  A robust public healthcare system is key to tackling the opioid crisis.

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.  Cash bail only hurts those without financial means and does not increase the likelihood of someone charged with a crime returning to court.  Increased financial burdens often have the opposite effect as people become more financially unstable.

I’m proud to currently serve as executive director of Coloradans for Alternatives to the Death Penalty, where I work with a number of criminal justice reform organizations to affect change.  I would utilize that network at the municipal level as well.

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?

As a former cigarette smoker, I know how hard it can be to break addiction when someone starts smoking at an early age.  Like many teenagers, I was able to get cigarettes easily and by the time I was 18 I was hooked. I support raising the age to purchase cigarettes to 21.  I would also support efforts to limit sales to tobacco stores, liquor stores, bars, and other businesses that are open to 21+ customers only.

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?

Denver is fortunate to have Denver Health, one of the most integrated public health systems in the country.  In addition to a strong public health department, Denver Health includes: a behavioral health department with outpatient addiction services; Denver CARES, a detoxification and drug and alcohol rehabilitation center and an inpatient psychiatric unit. My first priority would be for the new nonprofit to coordinate and prioritize services with Denver Health and the Mental Health Center of Denver to minimize duplication of scarce resources.  I would also urge Caring 4 Denver to address the additional and mental health needs of persons incarcerated at the County Jail which has regrettably become a poor substitute for community mental health services.

 

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?

Working with city resources, philanthropic individuals, organizations like DDP, and private charities, the city needs to expand long term housing solutions with wraparound services.

By providing a place for people to store their belongings, attend to personal hygiene, and a warm safe place to sleep each night, the city can reduce homelessness instead of simply managing it or dispersing the population across multiple communities.  At a time when the city has an incredibly low unemployment rate, the city can help those experiencing homelessness find gainful employment, knowing they have a place to return home at night. For those in need of mental health and medical services, the city can both help people and save money by including those services.  I will be closely monitoring implementation of Care 4 Denver which I hope will fill a gap in services for the homeless and those at risk.

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?

The plan is a good start with specific strategies and measurable goals.  If elected to City Council, I will be particularly interested in how we advance multi-modal transit and use planning tools to promote environmental sustainability.  

For example, I believe Denver should explore a mass transit buy-up program not unlike Boulder used to create the Hop, Skip, and Jump lines.  Increased bus lines and more frequent bus trips are needed, in my view, to encouraging use of mass transit.

Lifting the caps on the number of scooters, jump bikes, and similar options private companies are offering is also key to last mile solutions.  In a young, vibrant community like NW Denver, these are increasingly popular options that should be encouraged.

While large, systemic changes are important, I also believe in the power of individuals to make meaningful changes in their own lives.  I became a vegetarian at 14 out of animal welfare concerns, but grew to understand the reduced impact of a plant-based diet and have continued to try and expand my personal habits to include more locally sourced options that have a lesser environmental impact.  Each of us can make decisions in our personal lives that collectively have a real impact on the future of our planet.

Amanda Sandoval

Amanda Sandoval

Running for: District 1
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?

 

Currently the state legislation will not be moving forward this year. If I had the chance to vote for supervised use sites, I would vote in favor of the initiative. I have personally worked with Harm Reduction and believe in the work they have been doing to address the opioid crisis in Denver. I would continue to work with Harm Reduction due to the fact they are the experts and understand their clients.

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 the ending of cash bail in Denver. This system prays on those who live pay check to pay check and don’t have any other means. I want to find funding to reintroduce the Denver Area Youth Services (DAYS) program which would help the youth in our city. It would ensure they have the services they need when they enter into the corrections system via curfew tickets, tickets from fighting at school and or criminal behavior.

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, I support raising the age limit on the purchase of cigarettes and other tobacco products. e-cigarettes are detrimental to our youth. As a mother of a 17 and 15-year-old teenagers I have had first-hand experience with how many of our youth are using these products and are not aware of their lasting health impacts.

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?

Currently the ordinance to create the funding source for Caring 4 Denver is going through the City Council process. The only authority City Council has is appointing 2 positions on the board. I believe a portion of the money should go to mental health in schools to ensure we have whole child wellness being addressed.

 

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?

I believe we should be funding more Social Impact Bond Projects, according the to the Urban Institute Study released in November of 2018 Denver’s Supportive housing program is 84% successful. I would like to see City Council allocate more money to this type of initiative.

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, I support the 80×50 Climate Action Plan. We need to stop fracking within Denver’s limits.  I want to work on legislation which would require all new apartment buildings to have recycling facilitates.  

Mike Somma

Mike Somma

Running for: District 1
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?

As a first responder, I have seen the effects of the opioid crisis to a greater extent than most. There is no doubt that these drugs have ravaged families, neighborhoods, and entire communities, and Denver needs to respond accordingly. With regard to supervised use sites, I believe that the city needs to be prepared to take action in whatever way the state legislature approves–because truly combatting this epidemic will require state and federal resources, in addition to city services. While we wait for our legislators to pave the path forward for supervised use sites, the city must take other actions that are within its control. I believe that we can be more proactive about providing drug and alcohol recovery counselors, and information about available programs, at locations such as our needle exchange and plasma donation sites. This can provide assistance at the critical, active-use phase, when people are most at-risk.

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?

I am not an expert on cash bail, but I know that we need to make sure that our criminal justice system achieves equal justice for all. The law should not know color or wealth. When our prisons exacerbate mental illness, and mental illness leads to cycles of instability and poverty, then we bring these people right back into the system without having improved our community at all. While I do not have all the answers, I would use the office of City Council to bring stakeholders together and, with the input of experts, push for genuine criminal justice reform in Denver.

Additionally, I feel that it is important for our prison staff, and especially our medical staff within these facilities, to maintain compassion for this population and be proactive in assisting them in their medical and mental health issues. I believe that education and accountability are key components in this endeavor, and the city should prioritize these qualities in recruitment and training

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. In a state known for healthy living, our teen nicotine-use rate is nothing to be proud of. On paper, the gap between 18 and 21 is not much–in reality, those are often years of immense growth in a young person’s life. I would like to see tobacco regulated much more like alcohol, and ask our young folks to wait another few years before making the decision to mess around with dangerous, addictive products. We were successful in decreasing the overall tobacco-use rate, and now we need to do the same thing for other nicotine products.

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?

Mental health is my top priority, and I have spent decades as a first responder seeing these illnesses handled in good and bad ways. I think that shelters and treatment centers should be the top priorities when it comes to allocating Caring 4 Denver funds. Though many people live comfortable, successful lives with well-managed mental illnesses, we cannot separate the issues of mental illness, homelessness, and drug use. As we try to intervene and break that cycle of hopelessness, stability is the most important thing we can offer. Shelters and treatment facilities go a long way towards providing that stability.

I believe we need to harness the power of the programs in place here in Denver, and proactively bring focus to our specific area. I would like work with the homeless in our area, and connect them with housing and healthcare that is available. I will work to decrease waiting lists for our homeless population by working to increase the amount of housing available in our area. This can be accomplished by working with non profit, and faith-based organizations. I will also work to educate our community on the benefits of including housing for the homeless in the area. Doing so will hopefully reduce the amount of fear and uncertainty surrounding this population, allowing neighborhoods to come together in support of our un-housed neighbors.

 

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?

As with the general issue of mental health, and in addition to the Caring 4 Denver funds, we need to get creative about other city resources and how we can re-allocate them to best serve the city. I think this is particularly true when it comes to the homeless population.

For example, there are not enough beds in the city’s shelters, and there are not enough shelters to house more beds, and shelters take time to build. To more immediately address the issue of those without homes, we need to look at converting existing city properties that are

er unused or underused. The old Sheriff’s Department headquarters at 13th and Cherokee, adjacent to the Denver Police building, is one such city property.

Moreover, we need to think big. As a city councilor, I will push for a New Deal-style series of programs to address homelessness in Denver. We can create jobs and shelters at the same time by offering construction employment opportunities to Denver’s homeless population, in pursuit of building not only new shelters, but new treatment facilities, tiny home villages, and city works. Along with training and treatment programs, I believe that we can generate income, purpose, and housing for the homeless if we finally start focusing on cycle-breaking ideas.

I believe both the city and state will need to work collaboratively to review and possibly amend the TABOR Bill, which restricts the percentage of money utilized for mental health and our homeless population.

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, I support the city’s 80×50 Climate Action Plan, but I believe that we needs bolder initiatives as well. We have made progress since the days of Denver’s “brown cloud,” but we have a lot of work to do if we are going to stave off the worst effects of climate change.

A couple of other initiatives we could look at are increasing the number of eco-friendly RTD busses (the blue busses) and making them smaller, and more mobile to operate. Decreasing bus size could help reduce traffic delays and idling cars in intersections. I also think we could look at the possibility of creating a dam in our region, such as the Hoover Dam in Las Vegas. This could effectively generate power for large sectors of our communities.

 

HEALTHIER DENVER

1536 WYNKOOP ST, SUITE 224

DENVER, CO 80202

720.515.3206

INFO@HEALTHIERCOLORADO.ORG

 

                  

 

A PROJECT OF HEALTHIER COLORADO

POWERED BY  

JOIN OUR MOVEMENT

I stand with Healthier Denver and pledge to hold my elected officials accountable for prioritizing my health and the health of my neighbors.

By submitting your cell phone number you are agreeing to receive periodic text messages. Text HELP for more information. Text STOP to stop receiving messages.