With legislation already passed this year or in the works, Colorado will be taking major steps forward in addressing mental health in the wake of the horrific mass shooting in Aurora last year.

We're pleased to see these actions but urge lawmakers to proceed carefully on any proposals that could allow mental health professionals the ability to determine whether someone should have a gun.

Gov. John Hickenlooper in December laid out a series of steps the state should take in addressing mental health commitments and services to those with mental illnesses, hoping these moves would "reduce the probability of bad things happening to good people."

That's what everyone wants.

Lawmakers are still considering one crucial item: overhauling the state's civil commitments system so that three separate laws are merged into one and the threshold needed to place a 72-hour hold on someone or to commit them to treatment is lowered.

House Bill 1296 creates a task force to recommend how to combine the state's laws on drugs, alcohol and mental health commitments. Perhaps more importantly, it also changes the standard for placing a hold or civil commitment on someone from requiring that they pose an imminent danger to themselves or others to a "substantial risk" of physical harm to themselves or others.

We support this bill.


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Other good steps approved or likely to pass include:

¥ Updating a Colorado Bureau of Investigation database in real time so that people committed or judged as mentally ill can't buy firearms.

¥ Spending $19.8 million for a statewide mental health crisis hotline and several 24-hour walk-in centers for mental health emergencies.

¥ Adding 20 new beds for mentally incompetent prisoners, transitional beds for people leaving inpatient facilities, housing vouchers for the seriously mentally ill and de-escalation rooms at state mental health hospitals.

Rep. Beth McCann, D-Denver, says she is considering legislation that might give mental health professionals and others the ability to declare that someone is too mentally ill to buy or possess a gun.

As supportive as we are of efforts to keep guns out of the hands of the mentally ill, we believe any determination that someone is unfit to buy or own a gun should come only from a judge and not be made at the sole discretion of mental health professionals or others.

The Denver Post, April 12