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Mental Health Forum To Pose Questions To Colorado's Candidates For Governor

By Alan Gionet

DENVER (CBS4)- Ask on the streets of Denver and you'll find people are worried about mental health and the people with problems.

"I think that we need to figure out how we can get these people help," said one person downtown.

Gary Peters volunteers to help the homeless at a coffee house on Friday nights. Not long ago, a man was outside attacking people and property with rocks.

"Where is the money going to come from? Where are you going to put them?"

Gary himself is homeless and lives in a city park where he says he stays hidden. He has had housing options, but too far outside the city he tells us.

Those are some of the questions that could come up in the first ever forum on mental health and substance abuse. Mental Health Colorado has invited the candidates for governor to answer questions at 11:30 a.m. Friday at the PPA Event Center, 2105 Decatur Street in Denver.

Another woman said, "I would ask them have they connected with the people downtown in Denver I think they are really good people I just think they don't know where to go to get help."

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One of those places for people with opioid abuse issues is Denver Recovery Group with a storefront on Colfax where they offer treatments like methadone and detox. Denise Vincioni is executive director.

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CBS4's Alan Gionet interviews Denise Vincioni. (credit: CBS)

"How are you going to sustain funding for this population when we've expanded treatment exponentially?" she asks.

And housing is a problem, "How are you going to address our housing crisis right now for the patients with opiate use disorder and other substance use disorders in the state?"

At Laradon, a center for people with developmental disabilities, they note people often have a dual diagnosis with mental health issues. Lynette Johnson is director of residential services.

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She asks, "So why do we not have better training and education for clinicians, psychiatrists people who work with people with developmental disabilities?"

Dmitra Danilenko-Dixon is a member of the behavioral line staff with clients at Laradon. She's been doing it for five years. She notes Colorado is in the bottom half of per capita spending among states when it comes to mental health.

Her question was simple, "Why is there a lack of funding for mental health?"

Those questions and more are likely to come up at Friday's forum. Tickets are available only until Wednesday.

LINK: Mental Health Colorado Forum

Alan Gionet is anchor of CBS4 This Morning and reports on a wide variety of issues and "Good Question" stories. He started at CBS4 in 1994. Follow Alan on Twitter @AlanGTV or on Facebook.

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