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Colorado mental health system in legal limbo

Survivors of the 2012 Aurora, Colorado, theater massacre still suffer from the aftereffects of the killing spree. Not all the lingering traumas are physical. One man, whose son died in the carnage, says his family and others have benefited from Aurora Mental Health Center's trauma recovery groups.

Such groups are a creation of Gov. John Hickenlooper, who decided after the massacre to develop 24-hour crisis centers intended to spot and diagnose untreated mental illness in hopes of avoiding another mass casualty in the state. However, $18.5 million earmarked for the governor's huge mental health initiative won't be spent in 2014. Next year's budget appears uncertain as well, and the planned crisis centers have been put on the back burner due to litigation filed by Crisis Access of Colorado.

The agency was awarded the right to run the centers last October, but then had the green light rescinded after only weeks. Crisis Access has accused state officials of surrendering under pressure from mental health providers in the state who lost out on the contract. A district court judge issued an order in March for Colorado to halt its second round of bidding for the centers until resolution of the lawsuit is reached.

State officials are critical of the procurement process, calling it "an embarrassment to the department." Meanwhile, people in crisis from mental health issues can become more ticking time bombs looking for a spot to detonate.

If you have a loved one or family member that you suspect or know is suffering from unmanageable mental illness, you don't have to wait until they are featured on the nightly news after a horrific act. Obtaining a conservatorship or guardianship from the courts can help you step in so that they can get the help they need in a therapeutic setting rather than a prison. A Colorado estate planning attorney is one source of information for those concerned about the mental health of a loved one.

Source: The Durango Herald, "State’s key mental-health system on hold" Kristin Jones, Mar. 27, 2014

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