Aspen sitting on hundreds of thousands of dollars in tobacco tax revenue
Since Aspen voters approved a tobacco sales tax four years ago, the city has raised nearly $ 1.3 million in revenue, which can be used to fund mental wellness programs. , health and social services, as well as drug addiction and addiction.
Of that money, up to $ 250,000 is awarded each year to the Aspen School District for a portion of the salary of a school counselor and a youth connection program run by Aspen Family Connections, according to the city manager. Sara Ott.
Aspen City Council last month approved $ 107,550 for 2021 as part of an intergovernmental agreement with the school district, which means a third year of service.
There is an unused tobacco tax revenue balance of over $ 500,000 that has not yet been distributed.
In 2022, the first $ 250,000 of this year’s income would go to the Aspen School District, according to Ott.
Last month, she recommended to city council a special grant round next year specifically focused on shifting tobacco tax revenues to community partners.
âIt’s time to inject this money into the community for community benefit,â she said. âLet’s send this money to the community and put it to good use. “
This money will likely be used to improve access to professional mental health prevention and treatment services.
Pitkin County social service agencies say they spend more than $ 9 million per year on mental health and addiction treatment, which includes federal, state and local funding.
Local donors are spending more than $ 1 million of that amount through regional programs, according to Aspen Police Chief Richard Pryor.
These types of resources are aimed at what Pitkin County health and social service staff have described as a crisis in the community.
“Mental health and substance use have long been identified as the most significant health issues facing people who live, work and play in Pitkin County,” according to A memo to the IGA-related board approved by the board on August 24. specialized support for marginalized populations and the high cost of treatment, along with other issues, have prompted several different private and nonprofit providers to try to step in and respond. The result was a community perception of a fragmented and uncoordinated health care system.
In response, Pitkin County, Aspen School District, Aspen Valley Hospital, City, Aspen Community Foundation, Aspen Skiing Co., and Colorado Mountain College have initiated a planning process. strategic aim to rapidly improve access to mental health programs and services for the region. residents by changing the way local funding is allocated to programs, according to Pryor.
They realized quite quickly that there were a variety of contracts and charitable contributions of different amounts for a range of different services.
In Pitkin County alone, various sources of funding were provided to different mental health service providers through the Healthy Community Fund, the Sheriff’s Office and the Jail, and through in-kind rent to the building. Shultz Health and Human Services.
In December 2017, the board approved a first IGA for the following year that brought together several community organizations and funding sources to collaborate with a single provider – Mind Springs Health – to provide a âmental health continuum of careâ.
The IGA was then renewed and approved in 2019 and 2020, and includes the city and county, school district, and hospital, which are pooling their financial resources for the same efforts.
In 2018, the multi-agency agreement brought new services to Pitkin County, such as the school district’s first full-time mental health therapist.
The funds also increased the capacity of existing services such as integrated health care, case management, psychiatric medication management, access to telepsychic and crisis services.
The IGA was updated in 2020 to reflect additional funds the city had raised through the tobacco tax.
As a result, the city is helping pay an increase in funding for a school counselor from a full-time employee of 0.6 to a full-time position, as well as $ 31,000 from Pitkin County for employee incentives to. the three stations of Minds Springs. funded by AGR.
Pitkin County serves as a tax agent through its public health department.
A single contract was executed with Mind Springs Health as the lead agency for $ 525,810. Mind Springs Health will then contract out to Mountain Family Health Centers.
Participating IGA members have agreed to provide funding in 2021 with the following contributions: Aspen School District, $ 40,000; Aspen Valley Hospital, $ 73,275; town of Aspen, $ 107,550; and Pitkin County Community Health Fund, $ 304,985.
City Council continues to fund approximately $ 99,000 per year for a social services officer within the Aspen Police Department.
Council also recently approved funding for a second HSA position with the assistance of a harm reduction grant.
The grant covers about two-thirds of the cost of the second HSO, with the city paying about $ 34,000 per year.
HSAs work closely with populations at risk, including people with mental health issues, and have a very close working relationship with Mind Springs Health.