What They’re Watching: Vincent Atchity

Vincent Atchity is the President and CEO at Mental Health Colorado and the former Executive Director of the Equitas Project. Ahead of the 2020 legislative session in Colorado, Atchity joined us as a “What They’re Watching” guest to discuss mental health parity, decriminalizing mental health and reforming first responder systems of care.

While State of Reform spoke with Atchity back in the fall, he offered a prescient take on the issues that persist in the way mental heath intersects with the criminal justice system. As citizens around the country continue demonstrating for systemic change, we are featuring Atchity’s proposed systemic reforms in the mental health space.


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In this upcoming session we’re following how parity is being implemented to ensure that there is adequate and equal coverage and care for mental health needs and substance use disorder needs, as there is for any other kind of health concern. We’re also interested in measures that would be used to decriminalize mental health and symptoms associated with unmet mental health needs.

As a community of people we tend to think that mental health is somebody else’s problem. What we fail to remember is that all of our mental health are variable over the course of a lifetime, even over the course of a day. One in four of us might be susceptible to a profound mental health crisis in any given year. What we do with our systems of care in this country is neglect to asses for mental health needs and provide adequate support for health mental development.  Until people are in stage four, they’re in acute crisis by the time the systems kick into place, and those systems are often the first responder systems involving law enforcement that drag people toward the justice system for needed health care, as opposed to providing that care in a health context.”