District 4 – Healthier Denver

District 4

Colleen Zahradnicek

Colleen Zahradnicek

Running for: District 4
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 do support a supervised use site and I am disappointed the state decided against pursuing the opportunity to open one. I visited the Harm Reduction Center in Denver and was moved and impressed by their work. I am not an addiction specialist, but I did ask the staff at the Harm Reduction Center what they thought would help their clients the most. Many of their clients are experiencing homelessness, and for sure making sure people have stable housing is one way we can support people who are addicted to drugs. I would like to see the city address drug use as a public health and safety issue and not a policing issue. I would advocate for more funds to be used for prevention and treatment.

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 do support ending cash bail. It disproportionally impacts the poor and people of color. I would look into placing more mental health professionals in jails to help people while they are in jail. Ideally, I’d like to see more minor offenses taken care of without putting people in jail in the first place.

 

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. Anything we can do to make smoking less accessible to young people, so they don’t start smoking in the first place is a good idea.

 

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 am not a mental health professional, and I would generally defer to their expertise to determine what funds should be used for. I do think opioid treatment and suicide prevention are high on the list. The city can make sure its people are housed, earning a saving wage, and have clean water, air and access to healthy food. These basic needs are foundational to create an environment to ensure that someone can successfully utilize a mental health program.

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 would pursue a true housing first policy. Housing for all, with no conditions. This strategy is working in other places in the country and the world. We are wasting money on things that don’t work, instead of looking at programs that do work. I would like the city to look into social housing as well, where the cost would be 30-40% of ones income, regardless of their income.

 

 

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 do support the 80×50 plan, and I would like to implement policies to get us their sooner. I would support banning fracking in Denver. I want to create a real public transit so we can decrease our car addiction. We can no longer be conservative in our climate goals, as we only have 12 years to bring back the environment from the brink.

 

 

Kendra Black

Kendra Black

Running for: District 4 (incumbent)
Supervised-Use Sites & the Opioid Crisis

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


 

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

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

 I did vote in favor of the safe use site bill, however, the state will not pass legislation this year to authorize it. I expect that it will be back in the 2020 state session. While I don’t have “plans” myself, I am supportive of all efforts brought forward by subject matter experts to address this issue. For the best results, I think local governments need to partner with our state and federal governments for funding, innovation and to address prevention, treatment and harm reduction. Denver is part of a lawsuit against drug manufacturers and distributors of opiods.

Just this week, the DPD announced a new program–Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion (LEAD)–that will help get people into treatment rather than arresting them. Other Denver efforts include: a 24/7 treatment-on-demand program with Denver Health, peer navigators in our libraries and within the Department of Public Health and Environment, a mobile van for needle exchange, syringe access and access to treatment and other services, and increased funding for continued 24/7 access to mental and behavioral health services through Denver Health within the Sheriff’s Department.

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 a proponent for criminal justice reform. I support all efforts to keep people out of jail and to reduce time in jail including some of Denver’s recent efforts: Homeless court, lowering & eliminating fines, increased mental health care services (50% of people in jail have issues), and expunging low level marijuana offences (Turn Over a New Leaf.)

While I’m not familiar with the concept of completely eliminating cash bail, I am open to the idea. I am definitely supportive of eliminating it for many low-level offences. I completely agree that people should not be incarcerated for their inability to post bond. I’d like to learn more about eliminating cash bail.

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 very supportive of increasing the age to 21 and would also like it to be 21 for all vaping/e-cigarette equipment and related products (not just tobacco). I am not opposed to licensure requirements or increasing taxes–both seem like a good idea–but have not studied the issue.

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 have no training or experience in the treatment of mental and behavioral health, so I will defer to experts on how best to prioritize these funds. I know that these are very serious issues and support all efforts at the local, state and federal level to address them. As with opiods, we need collaboration and federal 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?

We need all types of new housing including supportive housing for people who need services. I’d also like to see more investment in transitional housing. We have shelter beds, but they are for emergencies. They are not homes. My idea for transitional housing would be a dormitory-like facility where people could have their own room where they could live with a partner or family, bring their dog and store their things so that they could go to work. Like in a dormitory, they would share bathrooms and kitchens with other residents. People could get stabilized in this setting which would allow them to then find a more permanent home.

My district still has market-rate-affordable rentals and for-sale housing. There are condominiums selling in the $100,000s – $200,000s in southeast Denver, and lower-rent apartments. The challenge is to preserve these already affordable options and to ensure that they don’t become unaffordable. One of the goals of Denver’s housing plan is to preserve affordability. With high land and construction costs, it is impossible to build market-rate affordable, making it even more important to preserve existing units.

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 must be addressed immediately at the local, state and national level! I will work to do this in whatever ways I am able.

As the sitting councilperson, I am working with the administration on new “pay as you throw” policies that will greatly increase diversion rates. Additionally, I am convening a stakeholder group to discuss new policies to ensure that both multi-family and commercial properties provide recycling and composting for their tenants. I work hard to educate my constituents on these issues.

Green spaces and trees are essential parts of combating climate change. I am working with our City Forester on possible rule changes or legislation to enhance and preserve our tree canopy. City leaders are working on other policies to increase and require more green space. I was a proponent of the new parks tax and have created a foundation for land acquisition for new parks. I am also working with the University Hills North neighborhood to create a new park.

Creating mobility options is a top priority for me and includes: complete sidewalks, improved crosswalks, bike lanes and solving our first/last mile issues so that people will use transit. Not only is this an environmental issue, but it will also help with our traffic and safety issues and get us closer to our Vision Zero goals. On a personal note, I’ve driven a hybrid for the past 5 years. My next car will be electric. As a councilmember, I’ve created a #NoDriveFriday effort to encourage residents to try to use alternative transportation at least once a week. I ride my bike every Friday.

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