Four Colorado legislators will stand up alongside football legend Herschel Walker as Healthier Colorado recognizes their legislative touchdown, Senate Bill 207, which puts money and a plan in place to keep people in mental health crisis from being housed in local jails awaiting a hospital bed.
Sens. John Cooke, R-Greeley, and Daniel Kagan, D-Cherry Hills Village — along with Reps. Joe Salazar, D-Thornton, and Lang Sias, R-Arvada — were the sponsors of that bill. At an event Thursday evening at Sports Authority Field at Mile High, they will be recognized as the legislators of the year.
Cooke is the former Weld County sheriff and Salazar is running for attorney general.
“It would be illegal to jail an innocent person because they have a concussion or broken leg. Our public policy must be made to reflect the reality that mental and physical health are co-equal,” Jake Williams, executive director of Healthier Colorado, said in a statement. “We are thankful for the lawmakers who helped end this unjust practice and improve access to mental health services.”
Walker, a Heisman trophy winner at the University of Georgia before turning pro, went public in 2008 with his struggle with multiple personalities, medically called dissociative identity disorder, to help relieve the stigma for others with the condition. He is a pending nominee for the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
He chronicled the struggle in his 2008 book “Breaking Free: My Life with Dissociative Identity Disorder.”
Healthier Colorado, a nonprofit, works to advance work on the state’s mental and behavioral health needs.
“Colorado lags behind many other states in the nation when it comes to key mental and behavioral health care indicators, consistently ranking in the top 10 states for suicide, opioid addiction and alcoholism,” the organization said in an announcement Wednesday. “This crisis is further exacerbated by the fact that many of our rural communities do not have adequate access to mental and behavioral health treatment. More than 80 percent of Colorado’s psychologists are located in the Denver metro and Colorado Springs, and 12 counties don’t have a single licensed psychologist.”