Summit County officials take on roles with state task forces on housing and behavioral health
Two Summit County officials have been named to state task force subpanels created to find solutions to familiar issues within the state: access to behavioral health resources and affordable housing.
State Rep. Hugh McKean appointed Summit County Sheriff Jamie FitzSimons to the state’s Behavioral Health Task Force Subpanel, and Rep. Alec Garnett appointed Summit County Commissioner Tamara Pogue to the Affordable Housing Transformational Task Force Subpanel.
Both task forces were created in this year’s legislative session, which also set aside $850 million in American Rescue Plan Act funds dedicated to housing and behavioral health initiatives. The role of these task forces is to make recommendations to the Legislature on how best to allocate the funds and to come up with policies and opportunities to improve on issues related to housing and behavioral health. The subpanels, composed of appointed experts from around the state, will be responsible for advising the task forces.
Pogue said she is one of only two Western Slope voices on the housing task force along with Rep. Dylan Roberts.
“I think that (my) appointment really speaks to the level of crisis that our community faces at the moment,” Pogue said. “I think I bring a voice of understanding to the unique needs of the rural, resort and Western Slope communities and some of the barriers that we traditionally faced in accessing state funding.”
Pogue said her appointment also speaks to the work being done within Summit County — by both the towns and county — to find solutions. She said she’s heard that other communities are having similar struggles with infrastructure costs when working on affordable housing projects.
As a part of the task force, Pogue hopes to help those at the state level understand the need for new housing strategies and advocate for funding to support them.
“My hope is that I can advocate for funds that will help the Summit County community move some of the projects we’ve been talking about forward as quickly as possible,” Pogue said. “You use these funds and leverage other funds to create financial support for programs that will really make a difference.”
To Pogue, the goal of the task force is to be innovative, and she looks forward to learning more about the funding landscape throughout the process.
FitzSimons will be the sole sheriff on the Behavioral Health Task Force Subpanel, which will fulfill a similar advisory role to the housing task force. This task force is aimed at improving access to resources for mental health and substance use disorders using funds from the state.
“I think it’s great for the community, especially with all the work we’ve done around mental health,” FitzSimons said.
FitzSimons said he is deeply committed to finding mental health solutions across the state, as he is representing not only all sheriffs statewide but the Summit County community, too. He said this appointment only strengthens that commitment.
“It’s important for our community because we’ve invested so much in behavioral health here, and it gives us a seat at the table,” FitzSimons said.
FitzSimons said it was an honor just to be appointed to the task force, and he is looking forward to doing what he can to ensure better access to behavioral health and substance use resources for all Coloradans.
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