Adams County, Colorado Leaders Make Major Public Push for Passage of a “First of its Kind” Mental Health Bill in United States During Mental Health Awareness Month
Brighton, CO —Today, Colorado State Representative Dafna Michaelson Jenet (D-District 30), Colorado State Representative Brianna Titone (D-District 27), Colorado State Senator Dominick Moreno (D-District 21), 17th Judicial District Attorney Brian Mason, Adams County Commissioner Emma Pinter (District 3), and Alex Castro, Executive Director of Life Recovery Centers announced their major public push for passage of HB21-1068, Insurance Coverage Mental Health Wellness Exam.
If passed HB-1068would establish a system where annual mental health exams would become a routine benefit, like a physical exam, for all Coloradans. The historic passage of this bill would make it a first-of-its-kind piece of legislation in the United States of America. To encourage this important bill’s continued progress through the Colorado Legislature, Representative Michaelson Jenet (HB-1068’s Primary Sponsor), Representative Titone (Co-Sponsor), Senator Moreno (Co-Sponsor), DA Mason, Commissioner Pinter, and Executive Director Castro hosted a press conference at the Colorado State Capitol to inform Coloradans of the importance of this piece of legislation for the future of mental health support in our state and our nation.
Representative Dafna Michaelson Jenet:
“The pandemic has taken a toll on all of us. We had to shelter in place, our children had to learn from home, and we all felt some form of isolation. These mental health initiatives that we are pushing forward today will directly address the issues we are facing as a result of COVID-19. I liken it to a doctor who diagnoses a patient with high blood pressure and asks that patient to return when they have a heart attack. These initiatives will help us get ahead of what is currently a crisis-only system.”
17th Judicial District DA Brian S. Mason:
“The mental health crisis has a disproportionate impact on the criminal justice system. A significant number of those who commit crimes suffer from mental health problems. Preventing crime is always better – and might I add cheaper – than prosecuting crime. We can help prevent crime with this bill. By providing annual mental health exams, we can identify problems before people enter the criminal justice system and, hopefully, keep them out altogether. This not only helps those who struggle with mental health, it makes our community safer.”
Representative Brianna Titone:
“Let’s get ahead of this, and let’s fix these problems early. This is a way for us to get people the help they need now and in the future. This will set an example for other states because we believe we will be the first state to do something like this. We’re standing up for the people of Colorado, and we are here to set that precedent.”
Adams Co. Commissioner Emma Pinter:
“This crisis has only intensified. We in Adams County Government care about it because we care about our community. We care about those who live in our community. Early preventative mental health care enables us to make sure that folks are taking care of their mental health. This will help them retain their jobs, and this will help maintain stable family relationships so they can remain in housing.”
Alex Castro, Executive Dir., Life Recovery Centers:
“We are proud and honored to be able to support HB21-1068. This bill will be able to eliminate the barriers for children and any adult who is struggling with mental health issues.”
HB21-1068 is scheduled for Appropriations at 8:00 am MDT on Friday, May 14, 2021, at the Old State Library.
As discussed during Wednesday’s press event, this group of leaders is also fully supporting HB21-1258 Rapid Mental Health Response for Colorado Youth which will create a program to provide free mental health services to young people in Colorado. Youth would have access to three mental health sessions with a professional to respond to mental health needs that may have arisen, in part, from the COVID-19 pandemic. This legislation is even more important this week in light of a reported increase in suicide attempts among 8-16-year-olds in the City of Aurora.
District Attorney Mason assumed the oath of office on January 12, 2021. The 17th Judicial District Attorney’s Office endeavors to seek justice on behalf of the citizens of Adams and Broomfield counties in felony and misdemeanor cases. DA Mason and his staff are dedicated to transforming the criminal justice system to better serve the citizens of the 17th Judicial District.
Ms. Gazelka is a forensic therapist and clinician in Denver, Colorado. She is currently focused on providing therapy and assessment services to adult offenders in the community corrections and parole systems as a supervisor at Correctional Psychology Associates (CPA). Her education and career have been devoted to the intersection of psychology and law since 2000. Ms. Gazelka has been working within the field of forensic and correctional psychology since 2006, providing therapy in the community and acute mental health care and risk assessments in county jails. She has practiced as a Licensed Professional Counselor since June 2012. She also became a Licensed Addiction Counselor in March 2014. She was listed as a full operating level DVOMB Approved Provider in June 2019 and started a fledgling DV program oriented to Colorado’s Department of Corrections at CPA in September 2019. Ms. Gazelka was appointed to the Domestic Violence Offender Management Board (DVOMB) in March 2019 and has started her second term with the board. Ms. Gazelka has been recognized for her work as Contributor of the Year at CPA in 2010 and 2012, as well as having been awarded an Alumni Impact Award for her forensic work in the community by University of Denver’s GSPP in 2019. Ms. Gazelka received her Master of Arts degree in Forensic Clinical Psychology from University of Denver's Graduate School of Professional Psychology in 2009. Ms. Gazelka also received her Juris Doctorate from William Mitchell College of Law in 2007, obtaining attorney’s licenses in both Minnesota and Colorado (currently inactive).
Alex Castro Croy
Alex Castro Croy is a bilingual, bicultural, Trauma and Addiction Counselor and owner/Lead Clinician of Life Recovery Centers in Denver and Northglenn Colorado.
A first-generation immigrant from Mexico who accomplished his dream in higher education receiving an AA in Pastoral Ministry (Dallas, Texas), Bachelor of Science in Human Services (MSU in Denver, Colorado) and MA in Community Counseling from Regis University (Denver, Co). He is continuing to pursue his MA/Ph.D. from Pacifica Graduate Institute in Jungian and Archetypal Studies.
Alex’s passion includes training, teaching, counseling, and consulting. He has been an Adjunct Professor for the Human Services Department at MSU-Denver for 9 years. He has served as an Interventionist for the Latino GLBTQ community, Drug Court Probation Officer at Denver Juvenile Court Probation (8 years), Bilingual Diversion Officer for Denver DA office (5 years), and currently owner and director of Life Recovery Centers (7 years). He has worked with a variety of clients from all walks of life and his eclectic therapeutic interventions have proven to be effective in treating trauma and addiction.
Thea Wessel is an addictions counselor with a private practice in Colorado. She has been working in the criminal and addiction fields for thirteen years. Ms. Wessel earned her Masters in forensic psychology from the University of Denver and has her LPC, LAC, MAC, NCAAC, and ADS. She is working towards her Ph.D. in Transpersonal Psychology at the California Institute of Integral Studies. Ms. Wessel continually challenges herself and others to provide quality addiction treatment and ways to continue to educate the community about addiction issues.