(CBS4) - A pandemic and two mass shootings in three months have taken a toll on Coloradans' mental well-being, and now one district attorney is taking action. 17th Judicial DA Brian Mason says mental health and criminal justice are all too often intertwined.
Mason, whose district includes Broomfield and Adams Counties, says a disproportionate number of people who commit crimes and who are victims of crimes struggle with mental health issues.
Last month, after seven kids in six days attempted or completed suicide in his district, he was compelled to act. Using licensed counselors in his Youth Diversion Program, he set up a hotline, or what he calls a "Lifeline." It's a number that kids -- or their parents -- can call and immediately be connected to a mental health professional.
Mason also hopes by helping some kids up front, he won't see them on the back end of the criminal justice system. His job, he says, isn't just about prosecuting crime but preventing it.
"I care a whole lot about mental health, and have made that a real priority for my time as district attorney: to address the mental health crisis," he said. "We wanted to give another resource for young people and for parents who need help and need information to have someone they can call. This doesn't mean you're entering into a DA's database. We're there providing exceptionally well-trained counselors to give advice."
Kids who call the Lifeline are screened and referred to free therapy and support services if needed.
Mason, who says he's personally struggled with mental health issues, is making the mental health crisis a priority for his office address. He has also supported legislation dealing with mental health care at the Colorado State Capitol.
The Lifeline number is: 303-835-LIFE.
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