District 3 – Healthier Denver

District 3

Veronica Barela

Veronica Barela

Running for: District 3
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 support supervised injection sites. I support the State Attorney General suing drug companies for their role in the crisis. I support using Caring for Denver funds to support treatment services.  

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. People can sit in jail for $50 dollars for months. It is absurd. I support healthy food while being incarcerated or detained. I support treatment services and skills development programs 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?

No, I believe adults that can vote should have the free choice to choose what to do with their bodies. I do support education to reduce tobacco use.  I support licensing facilities to ensure compliance with existing laws.

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 would support the committee that in ordinance would have oversight over how the funds were prioritized. I believe working towards Housing for All and supporting budget line items within Denver Human Services are two ways in which the City can be part of a comprehensive approach to mental health issues.

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?

The criminalization of poverty over the past 7 years hasn’t reduced the homeless population. Crime rates have grown in the past few years and I would rather have policing time be used to address major crimes.  I believe in Housing First models, and we must find additional funding for housing and services. The passage of Caring 4 Denver, is a great first step. We also need to improve our public waste management, specifically solid and human waste. Building a trash and public restroom network will improve public health and lessen the impact of homeless issues on the businesses and the public. Tiny homes and possibly municipal campsites may be a short-term solution for transitional housing for the homeless. To be clear there isn’t one solution, but I do know that we will not solve it through criminalization or de-humanization.

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, the action plan is sound, what we must ensure is that the budget line items align with our goals. Time is short; we cannot falter   on climate change action.

Annie Martínez

Annie Martínez

Running for: District 3
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 support supervised use. I have visited Harm Reduction Action Center and would work closely with them to ensure their work is well-supported. I would fight for more resources for community-based programs so that addiction is not criminalized. Additionally, I would work with the criminal justice system within Denver to permit medicinal cannabis use more regularly and fairly so that individuals who are stepping down and curbing their opioid use for pain, but have legal cases, can medicate with cannabis without violating any probation/parole terms, etc.

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. Cash bail is unjust and creates a situation in which people are unable to get out of jail simply because they cannot afford it. Having worked in the Denver Jail arguing bond for indigent defendants I have an intimate understanding of the injustice of cash bail and it sets up our most vulnerable members of society to fail. Overall I would describe myself as an abolitionist, and have done significant work in Denver with bail reform as well as support/push/and grow diversion and other types of “courts.”

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 support raising the age for tobacco sales to 21 and licensure requirements. Overall, I don’t support raising taxes on tobacco and nicotine products because this would disproportionately affect poor people. I am interested in brainstorming around this issue to find ways to disincentivize use.

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 and behavioral health as well as addiction issues, can make or break a city, depending on how they are addressed. A strong support system, with high accessibility to resources, practicing from an empathetic, trauma-focused lens can bring the quality of life up for all of Denver, not just those suffering. It is clear that Denverites are empathetic and want to support its residents dealing with this issues. While sometimes these non-profits truly do great work for the community, I am concerned that there is not enough done through the city and most of these services are outsourced without sufficient oversight and control from local leadership to ensure that these programs are enacted in the way that is how the community intended. We need more social workers, more therapists, and they need to be people of color and different backgrounds to truly serve the diverse community that Denver is.

Overall I strongly support the work that Denver Alliance for Street Health Response has initiated. Generally, instead of more police militarization, we need more resources for community-based conflict resolution and mental health crisis de-escalation programs. I would also support enlarging the Denver Fire Department’s first responder team.

 

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?

 My first priority would be ending the unconstitutional urban camping ban. Construction of attainable housing must be prioritized and incentivised to meet the massive need. We need more public housing and requirements for lower rents from private developers. Remove the ability for developers to opt out of building affordable units on builds; requiring the construction of more public housing; support community land trusts, funded by public banking. We also need rent control to keep people in housing.

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 think the 80×50 Climate Action Plan is inadequate. I would like to see a plan acting for 100×30, to reduce emissions 100 percent below 1990 baseline levels by 2030. The technology is available, we need the political will.

Jamie Torres

Jamie Torres

Running for: District 3
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 city’s decision to open a supervised use site in Denver despite hurdles at the state level. Supervised use sites represent one key way to save lives and provide more direct contact to individuals who need help. Sites ensure folks with addiction issues are within close proximity to medical and addiction assistance should they need it or want it. This is also why our libraries are training their staff on overdose intervention and hiring social workers. Our most vulnerable need more outlets for help and our addiction crisis is severe and not one that can be solved solely by criminal justice penalty or consequence.

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 support bail reform. Too many of our jail detainees are only there because they cannot afford bail, not because they have been convicted of a crime. I worked with the City Attorney’s office in 2017 to reform Denver’s municipal sentencing structure, which reduced fines and potential sentences for the vast majority of municipal offenses that disproportionately impacted our low-income, homeless, immigrant residents and communities of color. This was a strong start but bail reform is the next step. In my time in the Agency for Human Rights & Community Partnerships I have been a part of some incredibly difficult but necessary conversations around the treatment of female deputies and female inmates in custody and putting into place key policies that protect their health including pumping policies, pregnancy policies, inequity in employment systems for female deputies and more. I continue to work with the Gender Equity Committee of the Sheriff’s Department to continue to address some key issues in the Denver department along side those most affected.

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 of purchase to 21. In as many ways as possible, we need to limit the likelihood of youth becoming daily smokers. Other states have made this bold step and Colorado should join them. I would support extending the tobacco excise tax to tobacco products such as e-cigarettes, and vaping devices and liquids.

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 believe this passed with such strong community support because Denver residents realize that mental and behavioral health issues are central to a healthy community and far too many go without help for a variety of reasons. I believe seeking mental health and addiction assistance is stigmatized socially and culturally. Historically we have under funded this key area of health. Standards and goals for equity should be a strong consideration of how these funds are managed and distributed and what will become benchmarks for success. Key communities may face disproportionate barriers to finding the help that they need and that works – our communities experiencing homelessness, our youth in Denver Public School, immigrants and refugees, and communities of color, specifically. I am working with the Denver Immigrant & Refugee Commission now to craft a letter asking for an emphasis to be placed upon newcomer communities who may have no reference point to mental health assistance as they make difficult transitions to life in Denver and who may be reliving trauma as a result of the negative and volatile treatment against immigrants nationally. We further need to ensure that cost is not a factor for seeking care. Low income communities are at an economic disadvantage in early and long-term care. We need to train up community members to serve their own communities where trust is more natural and where the ability to communicate and navigate culturally is a key advantage.

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 best serves the needs of people who are experiencing homelessness. That will be a tall order in a city with several thousand residents visibly homeless and several more who are less visible. When I was a teenager, our family lost housing. We were homeless for a year living between family and friends’ homes until we were approved for public housing. It was a god send and allowed my mom, sister and I to put our energy and focus into the other areas of our live we needed to address. Housing is necessary and we must put strategic resources into protecting housing for vulnerable homeowners and renters and creating multiple levels of housing in Denver including subsidized, transitional, 30-60%AMI, and market rate. I have concerns about Initiative 300 on the upcoming ballot.

The language of Initiative 300 is overly vague and while it might address concerns that I share about basic human rights, it also removes tools for the city to manage park curfews (including mountain parks), building of structures and tent cities. I commit to finding better solutions and ensuring community members experiencing homelessness are part of the plan including revising the camping ban ordinance in place. An additional part of this commitment, I will be pushing the City and local housing and business partners to continue to do more.

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?

Climate change is a monumental problem and one that I think Denver residents and leadership are willing to take on. I do support the 80×50 Climate Action Plan. To reduce our emissions to levels lower than we had in 2005, we will need to both look at our own government footprint as well as that of our overall city and raise the level of accountability for what we build, how we prioritize budget spend, and how we can help make this path accessible to all residents regardless of income or ability. We all can play a role here. I grew up with chronic asthma and on particularly bad climate days, I can feel it and it affects my quality of life. The plan’s priorities for reducing our carbon footprint are noble and goals we can accomplish. But to see big change, we need to transition our entire reliance away from dirty energy sources to clean ones and for that we need to band together as cities and push for federal prioritization and investment. As I’ve seen from my work on immigration, cities are where the real advocacy and resident work are starting.

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.