ARC students, faculty lobby to legislators at state capitol


Hannah Darden

American River College representative Eugenia Torres (left) speaks with California State Assemblyman Bill Dodd in his office at the capitol in Sacramento, California on Monday, Feb. 29, 2016. The delegation from ARC lobbied for a bill that would fund mental health services at public California colleges. (Photo by Hannah Darden)

Hannah Darden

A delegation of American River College students and faculty lobbied for the passing of Assembly Bill 2017 at the state capitol on Monday afternoon.

AB 2017, if passed, would create funding streams to allow public California colleges to invest in mental health services on campus.

AB 2017 will be heard by a committee next month before moving to the assembly floor for a vote.

The delegation from ARC included Life is Worth the Walk club members, psychology professor Peg Scott and ARC Student Senate Sen. Laurie Jones.

The group split into two and visited the offices of California state senators and assemblymembers, including Assemblyman Kevin McCarty, Assemblyman Kevin Cooley, Sen. Richard Pan, Assemblywoman Shirley Weber, Sen. Lois Wolk and Assemblyman Bill Dodd.

In a meeting with Dodd, Life is Worth the Walk treasurer Eugenia Torres, along with Scott and Jones, encouraged him to vote “aye” on AB 2017.

The lobbyists shared personal stories and discussed the benefits the bill would bring to ARC.

Torres shared a personal story with Dodd to help him understand the cause, explaining that a friend of hers was removed from a classroom by a uniformed police officer after an incident relating to her mental health, as per current Los Rios protocol.

Her friend, while compliant with police, was handcuffed in front of other students.

“Mental illness is not a crime,” Torres said.

Dodd agreed, saying that calling police to handle a mental health situation “further exacerbates the situation” rather than calming it.

“It should be across the board for everyone. Anyone, any school or person in crisis should have access to help without being locked up or calling a 5150 (police code for an involuntary psychiatric hold),” Dodd said.

ARC lobbyists also met with Brendan Repicky, one of Cooley’s staffers, who explained that there is currently another bill competing against AB 2017 for the same Prop. 63 funding that 2017 would draw from.

The meeting with Caitlin O’Halloran, a staffer of Wolk’s, went well, and the ARC lobbyists left multiple letters, student newspaper clippings and other resources with her office.

Scott said that the meeting with Pan’s staffer, Miranda Shepherd, went well.

“Pan has been an advocate (for community colleges for) forever. We can’t say enough about him,” said Scott.

After its afternoon meetings, the group reconvened at Ambrosia Cafe on K Street to write thank-you notes to the legislators they had lobbied to.