March 21, 2023
I understand that there is substantial opposition right now to Colorado HB23-1200 before the Public and Behavioral Health and Human Services committee. I presume that people who are opposed to this bill are not personally acquainted with any individual or family who needs such services and supports and they are therefore unable to understand the daily struggles of a person like myself who is in treatment and in need of life support at this time. At least I assume that people who are opposed are not dispassionate, but rather they have not yet been stricken with disability yet themselves.
Folks at the Colorado Cross Disability Coalition asked me to provide my testimony, which is the reason I am sharing my personal story with you today in support of Colorado HB23-1200. I hope that sharing my story about how a voucher for mental health services will support me to recover from my disabling conditions and go back to full time pursuit of happiness and employment will sway decision makers to act in the right direction for the people of our state.
Let me start by sharing that since 2014 I have been witness to the grim circumstances that children and families in our state are in due to my work at the Colorado Department of Education. I had the privilege of working for the State of Colorado as a special education policy specialist and IDEA state complaints officer at the CDE for six years, during which time I witnessed horrific personal stories related to children not getting what they need to thrive in our public school system. There were too many horror stories to count and my employment working for the state in children’s rights is the root cause of my mental health disability now, which began with compassion fatigue and has ended in post traumatic stress disorder. The state complaints
officers before me also became ill and one died shortly after leaving, or so I was told when I began working there in January 2014. Currently, I am in outpatient treatment for PTSD, which I have endured without assistance since becoming disabled in 2018 while working for the CDE. After five long years of struggling and fighting through my circumstances without public assistance or any appropriate level of support, this year my new medicaid health care provider immediately recognized my need for whole person support and filled out an application for me to receive a mental health medicaid waiver so that I will be able to recover from my illness. I am currently in the evaluation process with Rocky Mountain Human Services for a mental health medicaid waiver.
Since 2014, I have become hyper aware that our public school system and our public health system are not working well either separately or together. These facts and my advocacy for Colorado school children has disabled me and I know many families who are suffering the same fate. It is the #1 reason that I agreed to give testimony today and any day that I am asked to do so. The truth is that life could be drastically better for families in our state if people in Colorado actually had access to appropriate services when, where, and how we need them. The challenges that thousands of other families like mine face are easily rectified if Colorado’s funding flowed properly to agencies that provide services and if the people who worked for these agencies were paid a fair and liveable wage. I have found that our systems are completely corrupted and dysfunctional, which is the root cause of our collective demise. Ordinary people like teachers, homemakers, drivers, caregivers, case workers, public servants
of any kind, etc. are being burned out and used up. The mismanagement and misuse of funding that I have witnessed in our state agencies is egregious and shameful and as a result people are being injured daily. Most striking from my perspective is how we are treating children in Colorado. Children’s needs are being neglected horribly as public agencies hide behind illegal and immoral policies to deny benefits and escape accountability. Colorado is creating a massive overload of people (mostly children) with serious emotional and other health disabilities and we can all see it camping out in the emergency rooms and on the streets and becoming violent wherever they happen to be at that moment in time.
This mess that Colorado has created itself can and must be rectified. People like me who need treatment and time to recover from serious emotional disabilities need daily support. Some of these supports are very simple to obtain if one has the financial means, which a majority of us do not. We must instead be supported by the medicaid voucher system, which is a system that is almost impossible to navigate without obtaining instruction. I know families who are spending as much as $1800 to learn how to navigate the public school and healthcare systems and that’s a story for another time. Feel free to reach out to me for that and more. Right now, I personally need daily homemaking and transportation in order to continue working to support and take
proper care of myself and my children. And this has been my case since 2018.
Not receiving these simple homemaking and transportation services results in devastation to a family like mine. From a financial perspective, we simply cannot afford to pay for private schooling and also Uber rides, health club memberships, and residential treatment centers outside of Colorado. We cannot afford to pay others to clean our homes, run our errands, cook, and help us take care of our families and animals. From an emotional perspective, it takes its toll on a person’s self-esteem to have to rely on relatives and friends for support just to keep up with life and we are left in a vulnerable position that opens us up to private companies/nonprofits who are on the take. From a health perspective, it takes a toll on a person’s body, mind, and
spirit to live day in and day out with a disability and insufficient support to be able to live our lives like everyone else. From a community perspective, it results in homelessness, uneducated citizens, suicide, homicide, and an overall state filled with crime and addiction out of sheer desperation.
On a final note, last April my beautiful son (Cole Tucker) died. This is a picture of him on his 19th birthday. I took this photo of him nearly one year before he passed away. At the time he died, he was a freshman at Community College of Denver. Cole was legally blind and was struggling through a serious emotional disability. He and I were fighting back against Denver Public Schools for his free appropriate public education and related services. Cole also died waiting for his mental health medicaid application to be processed. There is no question in my mind that if circumstances had been different in our state, Cole would never have become disabled in the first place and I like to believe that he would have been enjoying his life today. He was a beautiful human being full of promise and hope. He started an organization called Solid Ground Denver in the last few years of his life. We carry on in his honor and memory.
Lisa (Weiss) Rudofsky
Solid Ground Denver
Testimony in support of Colorado HB23-1200
March 21, 2023