For his legislative support of the behavioral health community, State Senator Larry Crowder received the 2014 Community Behavioral Health Champion award in Alamosa on Monday.
San Luis Valley Behavioral Health Group CEO Fernando Martinez and Colorado Behavioral Healthcare Council Associate Director of Policy and Government Affairs Frank Cornelia presented the award to the senator in a ceremony at the Health Group center in Alamosa.
"This is an exciting opportunity to recognize Senator Larry Crowder for his effort," Martinez said. He said Senator Crowder has responded time and time again to the struggles of the local communities he represents, including those working in the behavioral health field . He has become an advocate and champion of the population served by behavioral health specialists, Martinez said.
He said the senator's efforts at the capitol have benefitted rural delivery systems like the SLV Behavioral Health Group.
Cornelia brought warm wishes from George Del-Grosso who formerly served as director of the SLV Mental Health Center (now known as the SLV Behavioral Health Group) and is now the executive director of the Colorado Behavioral Healthcare Council.
"He was very excited to be able to recognize Senator Crowder," Cornelia said.
The council is the membership association for the 17 community health centers in Colorado.
DelGrosso stated in his congratulatory letter to Senator Crowder regarding the 2014 Community Behavioral Health Champion award, "Thank you for supporting and leading initiatives that strengthen mental health and substance use disorder services in our state " Thank you for your hard work in support of behavioral healthcare in Colorado."
Cornelia specifically recognized Crowder for sponsoring HB14-1083 , which allows acute treatment units to stock medications for clients in crisis.
"It's not a 'sexy' bill; it's a regulatory bill," Cornelia explained.
However, the legislative changes enabled through 1083 are very important to acute treatment units treating people in psychiatric crises , so they can have access to emergency medications, Cornelia added.
"It's an important bill."
Crowder said, "If we as legislators can make an impact on people's lives by giving you the tools that you need, that's what we are there for, to make sure things go smoothly in your job, as smoothly as can be expected."
Crowder said he is not an expert in the mental health field but he can help make sure those who are skilled in that field have the tools they need to do their jobs.
"I was proud to be a part of that," he said. "I plan on continuing support for your endeavors."
Crowder added part of that support included Medicaid expansion. As the only Republican at the state legislature voting for it, he said, "I have been accused of having some courage on that bill."
However, he said it was a "no brainer" for him, because he believed it would help the people living in the 16 counties he represents in southern and southeastern Colorado. Fee supported, it would also not raise taxes, something that is important to him as a Republican, he explained.
He said it was one of the easiest decisions he had to make because it was so clear that it had to be done.
"I felt it was the right decision at that time, and once I made that vote on that, I never looked back because I knew it would make an impact on people's lives " The Medicaid expansion was good for the people in southern Colorado."
DelGrosso stated, "Colorado's Medicaid expansion has made a significant difference in the lives of previously uninsured Coloradans living with behavioral health issues. We appreciate your support of this important part of our state's healthcare system."
By RUTH HEIDE Courier editor