Eli Kirshbaum | Dec 28, 2020
Sen. Rhonda Fields has served in Colorado’s Legislature for ten years, having been a representative for six years and a senator for four. After getting involved in politics because of gun violence, Fields became active in health policy and now sits as the Chair of the Senate Health and Human Services Committee.
She represents Senate District 29, which includes Aurora, Bennett, Byers, and Strasburg. The Assistant Majority Leader shared her thoughts on the COVID-19 crisis, health equity, and bipartisanship in a Q&A with State of Reform.
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Eli Kirshbaum: Can you briefly describe your history in the Legislature and your experience with health care policy?
Sen. Rhonda Fields: Initially, I was involved in a lot of criminal justice policy and legislation, and then I decided that I wanted to work upstream. For me, working upstream wasn’t working with people who have already committed desperate acts. That meant: what can I do to make sure that every child has a head start, a fresh start, and a healthy start as it relates to their adulthood?
So that’s how I got into public policy as it relates to health care, because I think it starts early in reference to nutrition and the understanding of the appropriate food to eat. Understanding diet and nutrition, and those kinds of things before you get into fried foods and all that kind of stuff that you see in urban communities. So that’s what happened. I went from criminal justice to working upstream as it relates to creating policies to address, I would say, affordable access to health care. I just wanted to work upstream and in a different venue and I felt like health care was the best approach for that.
EK: Can you describe any significant health care accomplishments the Legislature has made during your tenure?
RF: In my district, we have the privilege of having so many hospitals, and so many different medical providers from dentistry to occupational therapists to mental health professionals, all around my neighborhood. All of them asked me to step up and address some of the issues that they were confronted with. This happened after Obama passed Obamacare, and before that, mental health was not considered a part of physical health — how do we integrate issues that relate to physical health to mental health? It just kind of peaked my interest in reference to what I can do to expand my interest beyond gun violence to helping people not do desperate things. There’s got to be other resources. Restorative justice, mental health, when you feel isolated, or you feel desperate, are you going to commit suicide or homicide? So that’s what kind of shifted my interest.
I would say the bills that I’m most proud of as it relates to health care, my very first piece of…