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As senior policy advisor on Human Services to Governor Bill Ritter Jr., I know first hand the impact that our state funded safety net programs have on families across Colorado. The state must work hand in hand with counties and cities to ensure that the most vulnerable of us can break the cycle of poverty and move into self-sufficiency. 
Family Planning Services

The cornerstone of any human services public policy is access to family planning services. In Colorado between 2009 and 2013, a long-acting reversible contraception (LARC) program reduced unintended pregnancies in at-risk youth by 40% and reduced the abortion rate by 35%. Unfortunately, the Republican majority in the State Senate killed this program despite bipartisan support in the State House.


Leslie’s Plan- access to family planning services allows low-income individuals and couples to avoid becoming parents at a young age, allows them to finish their education through high school, college, and vocational training, and gives them a better chance at becoming self-sufficient adults before they become parents. My plan will: 


  • fight to restore LARC program funding and protect comprehensive sex education funding;

  • support broad family planning services for all Coloradans;

  • work with various state departments, private providers of family planning services and experts in the field to determine the most cost-effective way to deliver these services.


Adult Self-Sufficiency

During both good and bad economic times, the social safety-net is important. There is a movement in this country to shame the working poor by restricting access to benefits that are meant to give people a leg up, not a hand out. Those suffering the effects of job loss or generational cycles of poverty need access to various kinds of assistance including food, housing, and utility payments.  


Leslie's Plan-


  • support policies that give the working poor a leg up so they can become self-sufficient and support their families;

  • fend off attempts to create barriers to the benefits people need during hard times;

  • support policies that promote greater assistance from the federal government for public benefit programs.


Mental Health

Whether in the workplace, the home or in our everyday communities, the stigma associated with mental health conditions persists. Every day, Coloradans struggle with balancing their needs for treatment with anxieties about risks to their homes, their jobs, their families and more.


Leslie’s Plan - With proper care, treatment and dialog, mental health conditions can be diagnosed and treated sooner and many of the repercussions can be avoided. My plan will:


  • advocate for increased funding for mental health initiatives and programs;

  • promote stronger investments in Medicaid and non-traditional services such as community treatment, youth care systems, and consumer-run services;

  • work with mental health advocates to develop a dialog on mental health issues as a means to reducing the stigma associated with mental illness.



Child Welfare

Colorado is one of the few states with a state-supervised, county-administered human services model. County case workers in our 64 counties are overworked, underpaid, as are those working respectfully and diligently in our congregate care facilities and foster care homes. 


Leslie's Plan- Our children deserve a safe environment and we cannot allow our child welfare system to flounder. I pledge rigorous oversight of our child welfare system. My plan will:

  • hold parents, the Colorado Department of Human Services (CDHS), our counties, and our family court system accountable for outcomes in the child welfare system;

  • work with the comprehensive network of stakeholders in the community from social workers to local nonprofits offering innovative solutions to improve upon our current system;

  • support and monitor the movement of the Office of the Child Protection Ombudsman from CDHS into the Judicial Branch, allowing county caseworkers, CDHS employees, and children in the system an opportunity to bring to light possible errors in the way our child welfare system operates;

  • fully fund necessary improvements to the system, in consultation with leaders on the Joint Budget Committee, CDHS, county partners, the judicial branch, and local stakeholders;

  • support comprehensive continuity of care from congregate care and foster care to kinship placements and adoption.

Early Childhood

Gov. Hickenlooper created the Office of Early Childhood in 2012 by executive order and legislation in 2013 consolidated programs from two other departments into the new office with the goal of better delivering services such as the Tony Grampsas Youth Services Program. Colorado is home to a number of highly competent and enthusiastic nonprofit groups with the goal of improving delivery of early childhood programming, while Denver County has expanded its enormously successful Denver Preschool Program with the goal of giving access to preschool for every four-year-old in Denver. Continuing the work in this area is critical. 


Leslie's Plan- We must explore creative and innovative ways to make early childhood education a reality, and a success, for all of our kids.  My plan will:


  • work collaboratively with the nonprofit early childhood community, CDHS Office of Early Childhood, local school districts, and our county partners to foster and develop a high-quality early childhood system;

  • ensure that gains in the early childhood space do not roll back through low-quality programming during later elementary school, middle school, and high school.