A Vote for Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services in Our Schools

At a time in our history when our flags seem to fly at half-mast more often than not, our kids are referring to themselves as “the mass shooting generation,” and suicide rates and drug overdoses are at an all-time high, we have an opportunity to make a difference in our kids’ lives at the polls by voting for candidates and ballot measures that make the current mental health and opioid crisis a priority.

As a Jefferson County, Colorado resident, I support ballot measures 5A and 5B which propose to improve student safety by upgrading school security and providing additional mental health services to include suicide prevention and substance abuse counseling. These measures will also provide funding to expand academic and early education programs, renovate dilapidated buildings, and offer competitive teacher salaries to attract more qualified teachers to our district.

Many of our nation’s schools are recognizing the need for better security measures and mental health and substance abuse services by putting these issues on the ballot. It’s up to us to support our schools in their effort to provide a safer environment for our children who have even begun advocating for themselves this year following the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in Parkland, Florida.

According to an American Psychological Association (APA) survey, 72% of today’s youth, also referred to as Generation Z, say that the possibility of a mass shooting occurring in their school is a major source of stress. The APA states that this generation is also much more likely to report that they have fair or poor mental health compared to other generations. In addition, they are more likely to have a mental health diagnosis such as anxiety or depression. According to the most recent report from the Office of Suicide Prevention in Colorado, suicide is the leading cause of death among youth ages 10-24 in my state. APA reports that nearly half of this generation also says they know someone with a drug or alcohol problem, but 35% said they would not know how to get help for a friend or family member with this issue.

It’s time to tell our kids that their cries for help have been heard and that we will invest in their well-being. Jeffco Public Schools, home to Columbine High School, has not seen a school funding measure passed since 2012. I’m voting for this year’s ballot measures, 5A and 5B, because they are about more than just reducing classroom sizes and increasing teacher salaries. While those things are important, 5A and 5B also address the mental health needs and safety of our students which can no longer be ignored. Our kids can’t afford for 5A and 5B not to pass.