We are deeply saddened and angered by the fatal shootings in Atlanta on March 16th. We must have the difficult conversations around the history of anti-Asian racism, how it shows up in our circles today, and what actions we need to take to put an end to Asian hate. We stand in solidarity with the AAPI community and condemn Tuesday night’s violence and all acts of hatred.
Since the beginning of the pandemic, there have been nearly 4,000 reported incidents of physical, verbal, and online attacks against Asian Americans. We can no longer let the calls for justice go unanswered. Tuesday 9 people were attacked and 6 of the victims were Asian women. This is no mistake.
As Coloradans, we remember the Amache Camp that opened here in 1942 to imprison over 7,000 Japanese-Americans. We’ve seen what happens when fear and uncertainty drive our decisions and a hateful few divide us against each other based on the color of our skin.
The victims of these attacks were just like us – they were working during a pandemic to provide for their families and build a better life for themselves. Since the beginning of the pandemic, certain politicians have scapegoated the Asian community for their own failed policies and greed. Their attacks have led to a rise in violence against Asian people like the shootings in Atlanta. We must come together to condemn this violence and call on elected leaders to represent all of us and create a world where we all live free and safe.
AAPI members have served as essential workers on the front lines of this crisis as healthcare providers, as first responders, and in other essential roles and they need to be protected against hate and racist violence. Our AAPI brothers and sisters have risen to denounce hate crimes and stood in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement.
We must continue the fight for dignity for all workers and to end racism in all of its forms. Together, we make the way for a Colorado that let’s all of us thrive – no matter what we look like.
For those in need of support, we encourage you to reach out to the National Alliance on Mental Illness by texting NAMI to 741-741.
We also wanted to offer other resources and encourage others on this list to do the same:
If you have other resources to share or ideas on how our community can activate our skills to end this senseless violence we welcome you to share.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
March 17, 2021
Contact: Olga Robak
Bipartisan Legislative Leaders Work to Address Role of Pharmacy Benefit Managers in Driving Up Drug Costs with Innovative Approach to State Contracting
Business and Labor Leaders Come Together to Support PBM Reverse Auction That Could Help Colorado Save Millions Annually
(Denver, CO) — Today, a diverse group of Colorado leaders announced that they will be seeking to help the state and its taxpayers save millions each year through a new, competitive process to determine how Colorado contracts with its Pharmacy Benefit Manager (PBM). According to initial estimates, this process would save the state between $6.7 million – $8.9 million annually.
PBMs are companies that manage the prescription drug benefit for public and private health plans, negotiating rebates with drug manufacturers, and establishing reimbursement rates paid to pharmacies for filling prescriptions. Sponsored by Representatives Susan Lontine and Janice Rich and Senators Dominick Moreno and Barbara Kirkmeyer, the “Competitive Pharmacy Benefits Manager Marketplace” bill will establish a modernized, transparent, and dynamic process for PBMs to compete over their cost to win for contracts with the state of Colorado.
“A PBM reverse auction creates a transparent marketplace where PBMs compete with each other to win award of a state contract by bidding over multiple rounds to provide the benefits we want at the lowest price,” said Representative Susan Lontine (HD 1 – Denver/Jefferson counties). “Our bill introduces dynamic competition to the PBM bidding process, deploying cutting edge technology to enable apples-to-apples comparison of the cost to the state of each PBM’s pricing proposal. This policy has proven to be incredibly successful, and several states have enacted similar laws. We want to get the same type of savings for Colorado, not just to bounce back from this economic recession but to ensure Coloradans get the best deal possible for the money they spend on their prescription drugs.”
“This legislation will make sure that PBMs in Colorado are held accountable for the promises they have made to the state. When we require PBMs to bid against one other over cost for providing our benefits, everyone wins” said Representative Janice Rich (HD 55 – Mesa County). “While this bill will initially apply to proposals the state solicits for state employee prescription plans, we hope that over time county, municipal, and private employers will also be able to take advantage of this reverse auction process.”
“Health care costs are outrageous for both consumers and business owners, and this policy would significantly lower the cost of doing business in Colorado. It’s the right time for PBM reform and this policy will create savings by introducing competition into the system,” said Senator Barbara Kirkmeyer. “This bill will meaningfully bring down costs and make sure taxpayer money is wisely spent. It brings an innovative, free-market approach that yields significant savings for Colorado taxpayers by creating competition between PBMs and passing the savings through to the consumer and taxpayers.”
“We have an opportunity to address the way in which our state contracts with its pharmacy benefit manager,” said Senator Dominick Moreno (SD 21 – Adams County), a sponsor of the bill who was not present for the event. “Colorado could see significant savings from this legislation, which is great for taxpayers, the health of Coloradans, and our state’s bottom line.”
The PBM Accountability Project of Colorado is working to educate Coloradans about the role PBMs play in driving up out-of-pocket prescription drug costs and advocate for bipartisan solutions such as the PBM reverse auction that hold PBMs accountable for delivering the value Colorado patients and taxpayers deserve. The coalition is made up of a broad group of organizations, including American Federation of Teachers, Americans for Prosperity, the Bell Policy Center, Colorado AFL-CIO, Colorado Consumer Health Initiative, Colorado Rising Action, Colorado WINS, and Healthier Colorado.
“For years, state employees have watched their pay and benefits drop far below what people in other industries make. This bill would reduce some of that pressure and make sure our public employees are getting the savings they were promised by PBMs,” said Hilary Glasgow, Executive Director of Colorado WINS, the union that represents state employees. “Consumers face an unfair disadvantage as PBMs work behind the scenes to exploit the system to increase their profits, while out-of-pocket costs remain unnecessarily high. The PBM Reverse Auction has the potential to capture millions in savings for the state.”
To learn more about the PBM Accountability Project of Colorado, click here.
The PBM Accountability Project of Colorado comprises a broad coalition of leaders and stakeholders across the state, including business organizations, health policy non-profits, labor unions, and patient advocates. Our mission is to restore prescription drug savings for Colorado patients and purchasers and assure affordability for patients, working families, business and employee groups, taxpayers, our government, and communities across Colorado.
March 11, 2021
Last March, as toilet paper and disinfectant flew off shelves, Coloradans didn’t know how our state could weather this global health emergency. But a year into the pandemic, we’ve seen how some unlikely heroes have used their inspired Coloradans’ grit and a sense of community to help that has helped us persevere.
We saw workers in low wage positions (like grocery clerks, delivery drivers, and custodians) put their own lives at risk to keep us safe, healthy, and fed. We saw that public employees were working harder than ever, tracking the virus, providing health care, keeping our water and air clean, supporting unemployed people, educating our children, and more. The past 12 months have shown that it’s the people whose work often goes unnoticed who have helped our communities get through the worst of the pandemic.
I work as a teacher at a state-run youth detention facility. My students are young people who have been committed after serious trauma or violent crime. The kids depend on me and my coworkers to ensure that they are able to continue their education during a particularly difficult and important time in their lives. I work with middle school and high school kids who have special needs. But I do so much more than teaching in my work. I create consistency and routine in their lives — and I make sure they know that I care about them and their future — all of which is critically important for vulnerable kids. My work also helps them learn to think critically, apply their knowledge to everyday life, and make a plan for their futures.
I love seeing the direct impact I have on the kids I teach and I work hard to help them through this tough time in their lives. Unfortunately, despite the clear benefit of my work for both the kids I teach and the community I live in, we often don’t have what we need to do our jobs safely and effectively. At a time when the services we provide are more critical than ever, state employees are dealing with wages that aren’t keeping up with the cost of living, longer hours, and trying to do more with less staff and fewer resources.
And we aren’t alone. My union, Colorado WINS, participated in a survey of nearly 5,000 public employee members across the country and found that 38% say they were understaffed even before the pandemic. The truth is many state employees are risking our own health and that of our families to make sure people in our communities get what they need. That’s why we are calling on our state and federal legislators to protect, respect and pay people for this critical work.
Our elected leaders must ensure we have the resources we need to provide the public services Coloradans are counting on. Even before the pandemic, one in five Colorado state jobs were vacant and understaffing was creating safety concerns for staff and the people we serve. Colorado needs Senator Hickenlooper to support our communities by voting for President Biden’s American Rescue Plan, which would send money back home and allow us to continue providing critical services. After the last recession, cuts to state and local services were the single largest drag on recovery and states that maintained their funding for public services recovered dramatically faster from the economic downturn. We can’t repeat that mistake again, especially since we know states that maintained their funding for public services recovered dramatically faster from the economic downturn.
This time we must put working people at the center of our economic recovery from the pandemic. The truth is many of the people getting us through it don’t make enough money to support their own families. Our state’s congressional delegation can do something about that right now by supporting a bill to increase the federal minimum wage. Coloradans understand that a higher minimum wage benefits our economy and our communities, that’s why we voted to increase our state minimum wage nearly 5 years ago. Since then we’ve seen that putting money directly into people’s pockets helps our communities and our economy. If the federal minimum wage was increased to $15/hr, more than half a million Coloradans would see an immediate increase in their take-home pay.
I hope that another year from now, our hard work and determination will begin to put COVID-19 behind us. Until that time, this pandemic should serve as an urgent reminder that we need to think differently about public services. Colorado needs good people who are committed to meeting these challenges with expertise and compassion. Investing in public service now means people like me can provide critical services to everyone in need and ensure a brighter future for our communities.
To recover from the pandemic, Colorado must invest directly in the workers who are getting us through it
Author: Angelika Stedman, Registered Nurse
For nearly a year, Coloradans have faced unprecedented threats to the health of our communities. Throughout it all, essential workers have gotten us through the worst of the pandemic and are keeping our communities and economy going. Many of those frontline workers are Colorado’s state employees, who work tirelessly to fulfill our commitment to the health of everyone in our community. Although you may not see the behind the scenes work state employees perform daily, we provide critical services keeping people in every one of Colorado’s 64 counties fed, clean, safe, and healthy.
Unfortunately, chronic understaffing, low pay, and eroding benefits have caused many experienced and talented state employees to leave the jobs they love and seek out other job opportunities to provide for their families. In fact, state employees are paid, on average, 16.4% less than employees in similar sectors, a gap that has been steadily growing each year, even in times of economic prosperity.
This trend has been made even worse by the demands the pandemic has placed on the people taking care of Coloradans. I work as a psychiatric registered nurse at the Colorado Mental Health Institute at Pueblo (CMHIP). For years, CMHIP has struggled to attract and retain talented and qualified employees, which hurts the very patients we work to serve (the turnover rate in Colorado’s Dept. of Human Services was 23.1% in FY 17/18, 28.3% in FY 18/19, and 23.4% in 19/20, one of the highest in the entire state). CMHIP is one of two inpatient, behavioral health service hospitals operated by the state that aid individuals with mental health screenings, substance abuse issues, and other mental health issues.
Low pay and increased workloads mean state employees must work overtime or double shifts to try to provide the services Coloradans need. The demanding nature of our work compounds the problem, leading to staff exhaustion and compromising the safety of our fellow employees and our clients. When dedicated employees are incentivized to look for employment elsewhere, Colorado’s vulnerable populations are left in even more precarious conditions. CMHIP isn’t alone. Chronic low staffing plagues state employees across departments, with 1 in 5 state positions vacant. We’re just one example of how our community is impacted by lack of investment in public services.
But state employees like me are hoping the coronavirus pandemic has taught us one thing: to recover from this global emergency we must invest in the essential workers who got us through it. Last year, state employees won our right to collectively bargain a contract with the state. This year, we will use our new opportunity to reimagine how we drive investment into jobs and essential services that serve Colorado communities. That means making sure frontline workers have a voice on the job when it comes to changing how public services are funded and delivered. In our contract negotiations, we will be advocating for filling the vacancies which lead to unsafe staffing levels, raising wages to ensure people working for the state can support their families and that Colorado can retain employees, and improving benefits like leave and insurance options.
But while we negotiate a contract for a better future, we need immediate federal investment in public services. The American Rescue Plan, President Joe Biden’s coronavirus relief proposal, includes $350 billion dollars earmarked for state and local governments. These funds could help decrease the pressure state employees have been feeling since the coronavirus pandemic and allow for a much-needed breath of relief, but only if we ensure that money is invested in the working people of Colorado who have carried us through the pandemic.
I hope Colorado legislators and other elected leaders will join us in calling on Senators Bennet and Hickenlooper to vote to send federal aid back home. I also hope our legislators invest that money in Colorado’s working people, including state employees who have been on the frontlines of the response. Our work has kept Colorado from plunging deeper into a crisis and lawmakers will have a chance this legislative session to acknowledge that by ensuring public services are prioritized for funding.
The ability to work hands-on with patients at CMHIP is one of the joys of being a state employee, and seeing patients enter back into society after rehabilitation is one of the most rewarding parts of my career. However, seeing my fellow coworkers struggle because of low pay, depleted morale, or fearing for their physical safety is heartbreaking. We can and we must do better by the people who are answering the call to this crisis and the people who depend on the critical work we do. Right now, we need federal aid to shore up public services and beat back this pandemic. But in the long-run, Colorado’s elected leaders must commit to investing in essential services to make them sustainable and be better prepared for future crises.
Angelika Stedman is a Registered Nurse who has worked at the Colorado Mental Health Institute at Pueblo (CMHIP) for three years. She is a member of Colorado WINS, the union representing state employees, and was elected to serve on the bargaining committee negotiating for a new contract for state employees.
House Democrats are finalizing the details of President Biden’s $1.9 trillion American Rescue package to get relief to Americans as the country continues to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic. The House is expected to vote on the bill during the week of Feb. 22, and the Senate is expected to vote the following week. To put pressure on Congress to pass this desperately needed federal relief, and make sure the needs of essential workers and state employees are front and center, there will be an SEIU wide Call-in Day on February 23 to generate calls to Senators demanding they pass the relief bill. Together, let’s make sure Congress Respects Us, Protects Us, and Pays Us!
Union members like you are calling in from across the country. But we know our senators here in Colorado need to hear from us directly.
All you need to do is call: 1-844-558-0130, and you will be connected to your Senator’s office where you can leave a message. They need to know that we need relief NOW as we keep Colorado running on the frontlines. Thank you!
My name is [NAME] and I am a [INSERT Job Title] from [City or county]. [Line about the work you do and why it’s important during pandemic]. If the Senate does not pass significant aid to our cities, towns and schools, families will continue to suffer. Colorado needs federal relief to fill jobs to continue the critical services people rely on and to rebuild our economy more equitably so that we can support all of our families and communities. It’s time for the Senate to Respect Us, Protect us, and Pay Us.