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Leslie Herod, representing House District 8 of Northeast Denver in the State House of Representatives, has been awarded the 2018 Mental Health Legislative Champion Award from Mental Health America. MHA makes an effort to recognize legislators that address the needs of those living with mental illness and working to improve overall mental health.

Herod is continue her hard work by pushing to pass the Caring 4 Denver ballot measure in November. The ballot measure is trying to provide more mental health treatment for people of all ages, suicide prevention programs, substance abuse treatment, recovery, and prevention programs, as well as affordable housing and case management services to reduce homelessness, encourage long term recovery, and reduce the use of costly services such as jails and emergency rooms.

OUT FRONT was lucky enough to chat with Herod about the award.

What does this award mean to you?

“I am very honored to be acknowledged by Mental Health America as a Mental Health Champion. This nation’s recognition is particularly meaningful because it comes from an organization that has been doing the work to decrease stigma and increase access to mental health and substance use challenges.

I am proud of what our state legislature was able to do in the 2018 legislative session by way of providing more resources for children and others involved in the criminal justice system, but we must do more. For too long, our state and frankly, the nation, has ignored the issue of mental health, and we have underfunded this area. This award is important to me personally because this work is important.”

Why is it important to stand behind legislation providing support for those with mental health and substance abuse issues in our community?

“Like any illness, mental illness and substance abuse should be treated long before either reaches a critical point. Unfortunately, there is a great deal of stigma around mental illness, and there aren’t enough resources to provide the needed support. As a result, people are not getting the help they need when they need it most. This unfortunate result burdens all of us–our jails and our prisons have now become de facto mental health hospitals and substance abuse treatment centers. This is wrong and wrong-headed. This is not the way to provide treatment; it only criminalizes the illness. Legislation in this area will not only provide hope for improving the mental health for those suffering, but it will work to break the stigma that surrounds mental health and substance abuse. Hope for better treatment options that actually lift people up rather than hide them in jails and prisons is a laudable goal that all policy makers should rally.

All of us can help tackle this issue. Caring 4 Denver will be on our Novemeber ballot, and Denver voters will have the opportunity to vote “yes” to provide more mental health and addiction services throughout our city. We hope you’ll join us.”
Photos courtesy of Facebook