To the residents of the State of Colorado, its elected officials, voters, and community leaders,
As mayors with varying political affiliations representing the three largest cities in our state, we—Mayors Johnston, Mobolade, and Coffman—share a key priority: addressing the shortage of adequate mental health services in Colorado. The problem lies at the center of many challenges we face, from homelessness to public safety; only by solving it can we build a thriving, resilient community.
We are encouraged by the Governor’s demonstration of his commitment to mental health in his 2024–25 Budget Request. With the 2024 legislative session set to begin, we ask our elected representatives to take decisive action in the following areas to bolster mental health support in our state.
Public Safety - Inpatient Beds and Facilities
According to a recent report, “civil inpatient capacity remains precariously low throughout Colorado.” First responders, providers, and members of the community frequently find that there are simply no inpatient beds for individuals with serious and persistent mental illnesses. Tragically, many of those individuals end up either on our streets or in the criminal justice system—where we can all agree they don’t belong. The lack of inpatient bed capacity creates a ripple effect, cascading into and exacerbating issues within public safety, homelessness, and healthcare.
What’s needed is a historic investment in more inpatient beds and additional inpatient facilities. With only one state-run psychiatric hospital, Colorado has fewer than 600 public beds, less than the number of additional beds needed in the Denver area alone.
Community-Based Mental Health Programs
Equally important to resolving our state’s mental health crisis is adding more options for community-based residential treatment. These facilities play a vital role as a necessary step-down from inpatient care, offering a transition from hospitalization to a more independent living environment.
The legislature recognized as much two years ago, when it invested in mental health residential facilities with the goal of adding 125 beds. That investment was a start, but more help is needed. Our cities need additional funding for community-based programs to provide those with serious and persistent mental illnesses the supportive care they need to live stably in our communities. The appropriation of dedicated funding to further expand and support existing facilities and the creation of additional designated facilities such as 24/7 walk-in crisis centers is imperative to alleviate the system strain seen across emergency services and to improve the quality of life for all who reside in the state of Colorado.
We would also like to see an increased investment in the RISE (Restoring Individuals Safely and Effectively) Program. The RISE Program embraces recovery-oriented, trauma-informed care for all patients. We encourage the state to fully fund this program to ensure all bedspaces are available.
We applaud the current investments that are being made by local and state government, however we recognize that these will require ongoing commitments and investments into the future. On behalf of our over 1.5 million residents, we thank you for listening and encouraging our state to act on this important issue.
Mayor Mike Johnston, Denver
Mayor Mike Coffman, Aurora
Mayor Yemi Mobolade, Colorado Springs