The voters of San Miguel County decided that mental health matters, as Ballot Measure 1A passed with 66 percent of the vote, according to official results.
The item is a 0.75 mills increase ($5.40 per $100,000 of a property’s value), which would generate approximately $600,000 to fund county mental health initiatives.
Paul Reich, who has spearheaded the ballot efforts over the past year-plus, felt a sense of relief and joy when early results were announced just before 9 p.m.
“It’s a great night for San Miguel County and mental health,” he said. “Tonight, the voters showed that mental health matters to them.”
The ballot measure is similar to the previously passed Early Childhood Initiative, he explained, as an Independent Mental Health Advisory Panel will be set up to oversee a San Miguel County Mental Health Services Fund. The panel will be comprised of mental health professionals and experts, as well as community members, Reich said. A tentative timeline has yet to be determined. The funds would help school counseling services and suicide prevention, among other initiatives.
“If we’re going to solve these problems we have to do it locally with local dollars. To have some stable funding set aside for that purpose is great,” he said. “ … We kind of settled on the model of the early childhood model as being the best way to get the dollars that we felt sufficient to move the needle without being a huge lift for voters. I think that’s the best way, because that group can make decisions based on what they feel is the need.”
Reich said the idea for a local mental health measure came after a similar initiative in Eagle County passed. Recently, Eagle County put approximately $400,000 of its $1.2 million mental health funds towards increasing the number of counselors in school districts. Reich said eventually the same can be considered in San Miguel County.
Ballot 1A proponents have cited a recent survey of county students that found one in six considered suicide within the past 12 months.
Colorado has the ninth highest suicide rate in the country at 20.5 people per 100,000 residents, according to the Colorado Health Institute. Suicide also is the leading cause of death in Colorado for ages 10-24, according to the most recent statistics. In 2017, San Miguel County had a suicide rate of 26.6, the numbers show.
While Tri-County Health Network, the San Miguel Resource Center and the recently formed Regional Behavioral Health Commission have all been proactive in providing mental health resources throughout the county, the new funds and panel will allow such organizations to expand efforts.
Reich also commended the success of local measures 4A, 6A and 6B that support Telluride’s school, fire protection and hospital districts, respectively.
“It would appear that voters across the board were supportive of what is characterized as the health and wellness measures,” he said.
San Miguel County Ballot Issue 6C, which will fund the county’s Solid Waste Disposal District in unincorporated areas, also passed with 63 percent of the vote, according to complete but unofficial results.
The measure is a 0.4 mill levy increase ($2.88 per $100,000 of a property’s value) to pay for hazardous waste disposal and electronic waste recycling events, holiday tree chipping services, recycling at the Ophir and Placerville post offices, the Norwood Transfer Station, and waste reduction initiatives.
“We are gratified that the voters in unincorporated San Miguel County saw the value in the services the county has provided through the Solid Waste District,” County Commissioner Kris Holstrom said. “We will continue to work on greater efficiencies with our programs, while offering additional education to work toward reducing waste in our county. We do appreciate all those who made the effort to vote.”