The feedback from last week’s in-depth piece about the officer-involved shooting last December has been overwhelmingly positive. I’ve heard heart-wrenching stories from readers who have friends and family members who’ve struggled with mental illness. I’ve had readers say “thank you” for bringing the multiple layers of this story into the light and dispelling rumors and innuendo, and I’ve been warned there may be a couple folks who are perturbed because the article could be “bad publicity” for Rangely.
Let’s forget the old adage from P.T. Barnum that “there’s no such thing as bad publicity,” and look at it another way. While this topic is in the spotlight, Rangely, and really all of Rio Blanco County, have a tremendous opportunity to raise the bar for mental health care in rural Colorado. We need to have discussions about the resources we need, where we can get them, and how we can pay for them.
We need to seek training and educational opportunities—not just for medical providers and educators and law enforcement—but for residents. Knowing how to recognize and respond to someone in a mental health crisis could save a life.
We need to listen to each other’s stories and do away with the stigma that mental illness is some kind of character defect or moral failing. Yes, that kind of ignorant thinking is still out there. It’s time to close that mental health crack in our county, and set an example for other rural Colorado counties and communities.
Improving access to mental health care, treatment and services for all our residents is likely to have a direct impact on the other societal problems that trouble us: suicide, substance abuse, domestic violence, child abuse and neglect, and more.
Start thinking about what we can do, what needs to be done, and plan to join us for at least one event to talk about these issues in the weeks to come. Details to come.
By Niki Turner | firstname.lastname@example.org