The Room Where it Happens
SB17–17 — Allow Medical Marijuana Use for Stress Disorders
Anna Yensen: Representing victims of domestic violence
4 years ago, Anna thought that marijuana was only for people that wanted to get high; she didn’t understand the medicinal uses of marijuana. In 2013, she was assaulted by her husband and he was finally arrested after inflicting 19 years of abuse. She supports this bill because she represents a large group of victims — women and children — who aren’t associated with the face of the illness. Her PTSD symptoms including nausea, night terrors, anxiety, and depression, and were only solved by cannabis. To her, not allowing PTSD to be a qualifying illness, is ignoring the not only the issues of PTSD but the misrepresented victims of it.
Private Curtbeen: Founded a center for individuals with PTSD in the Five Points area
Curtbeen was deployed overseas for three tours and was diagnosed with PTSD. When he sought help from the Veteran’s Affairs health program, the PTSD program he was in led to traditional medication only. He became addicted to these medications and they hardly worked to treat his symptoms. “Having access to cannabis is necessary for veterans,” he claims because cannabis “changed [his] life.” His center and work is focused on non-traditional methods of treatment for PTSD such as: art, yoga, meditation, and cannabis.
SB 126 — Domestic Violence Fatality Review Board
The bill creates the Colorado domestic violence fatality review board in the department of law.
Jane Doe: Representing herself and victims of domestic violence
Doe supports the bill because in 2006, she was attacked by her husband. He stabbed and beat her and her friend who was visiting. Doe was lucky but her friend was not, she died from the severe beating and stab wounds. Doe’s husband had never laid a hand on her before and she missed the signs from years before. Domestic violence review teams help identify common behavior of abuse through research and can help educate individuals about signs of abuse especially because most victims disclose abuse to friends/colleagues before law enforcement.
SB 125 — Lump-sum Compensation for Exonerated Persons
Concerning allowing certain persons who have been exonerated of crimes to receive in lump-sum payments compensation that is owed to them by the state. This adds opportunities for people who qualify to receive a lump sum payment rather than the annualized system in place.
Robert Dewey: Individual exonerated who inspired the bill
Dewey was exonerated of a crime one year ago, after serving fifteen years in prison for a crime he did not commit. Dewey cannot receive his payment compensation owed to him by the state in a lump sum under the current statute. This means that he doesn’t have enough money to buy his own property and because he can’t make big purchases, he can’t build credit or take out any loans. This bill was presented solely because of his case, he is the only man in Colorado who is currently exonerated. His wife, Senda Dewey also testified in support of the bill. She reiterates the difficulty of the state regulating his finances even though he was proven innocent.
SB 19 — Medication Mental Illness in Justice Systems
Concerning increasing medication consistency for persons with mental illness in the criminal and juvenile justice systems.
Dr. Patrick Fox: Department of Human Services
As individual goes from independent health provider to a corrections facility, medications could be modified because of corrections facilities’ own formularies for medication. There should be a uniform formulary that would enable prescribers to know what medication will follow their patient if they move into a corrections facility from mental health facility or if they are transferred to a different facility. When meeting with different county sheriffs, there was discrepancy on how medications were purchased and there were different costs because smaller correction facilities did not purchase medication through wholesale.
SB71 — Voter Service and Polling Centers Early Voting General Election
Concerning reductions in early voting period requirements for voter service and polling centers used in general elections.
Carla Castedo: Mi Familia Vota
Castedo Works to increase civic participation among the Latinx community. She opposes this bill because it reduces options for people who need a replacement ballot or to register to vote, especially in minority communities. Many people who the organization encounters have expressed that having an in-person voting center is extremely important for questions and to ensure ballots are completed correctly. Instead, resources should be focused on convenient hours and to maximize location efficiency for those who work unusual hours or for those who don’t have a reliable form of transportation.
Jennifer Leven: Disability Law Colorado
Leven opposed the bill because by reducing VSPCs, people with disabilities will face greater barriers to vote that result in disenfranchisement. Early voting allows disabled voters a greater possibility to vote by eliminating transportation issues and allow election judges more time to assist disabled people.
Lizzie Steffen: New Era Colorado, engaging young people in democracy
Steffen works to engage young people in democracy and opposed the bill because young voters need more options when it comes to voting. This bill would eliminate common sense locations that are accessible through public transportation, and resources should instead be focused on modifying location size and waiting.
SB17–064 — License Freestanding Emergency Departments
Concerning the licensing of freestanding emergency departments that provide emergency care outside a hospital setting.
Paul Wagner: Represented himself by giving an account of a firsthand experience
One day, his wife was experiencing severe abdominal pain and she drove to the nearest health care facility. She didn’t know that the entity she had walked into was a freestanding emergency department and not an urgent care center. She received a cat scan, other tests, and a total of four different drugs. She turned out to be fine but received a bill of $16,000 because she did not have insurance. She is advocating for this bill because she feels that there is not enough education about the difference between urgent cares and free standing emergency rooms, where the biggest cost comes from their “facility fee” to charge as if you go to an emergency room. This is an issue especially for low income individuals who are more likely to go to an emergency room than to their physician because of a lack of insurance.
These testimonies are important to the political process that we often don’t see taking place. When people think of politics, the idea that usually comes to mind is a group of law-makers in fancy suits and nice buildings. What must be remembered is that real people and communities are affected by every single decision made by those elected into office. It is the responsibility of the people to hold politicians accountable and to share testimonies to understand the real life application. It is easy to detach bills on pieces of paper from their given power but their effect should not be taken for granted. The dozens of testimonies I listened to in the capitol are the individuals affected the most by these laws. Policy is a crucial aspect of social justice that cannot be ignored.