Rep. Diego Espinoza is entering 2020 with the youth in mind as he wants to improve mental health and focus on affordable college tuition. He is also pushing for immigrant rights and to add autism to the list of conditions eligible for medical marijuana.
Espinoza said he is working on legislation aimed at improving the mental health of youngsters, ensuring equality in college tuition among students and improving infrastructure.
Espinoza represents Legislative District 19 in the Arizona House of Representatives. His district serves residents of Avondale, Tolleson and west Phoenix. In addition, he serves in the Commerce Committee and the Banking Financial Services Committee.
College tuition prices are set depending on the residency status of a student. Out-of-state students must pay more than residents.
Because “Dreamers” (immigrants who came to the U.S. at a young age) are not treated as in-state students, they are forced to pay more even if they have been living in Arizona for years. Espinoza said he wants to ensure they have equal opportunity to education as other students.
“I feel like it’s a super important issue for the future of our Arizona economy,” Espinoza said.
Espinoza said he met with Aliento, a group seeking to help undocumented immigrants through community-building spaces, leadership development and art.
Espinoza said out-of-state tuition students pay an exuberant amount of tuition compared to in-state-tuition students. Adding, “Some of these individuals have been here since they were 2 or 3 years old and we shouldn’t be penalizing those individuals.”
Espinoza said he met with students who are undocumented or Dreamers and some of them are in the top 2% and 3% of their classes and looking to enter high-profile careers.
In addition, Espinoza is wanting to pass a legislation adding autism to the list of medical conditions doctors can prescribe medical marijuana for.
“I think it adds another tool in the toolbox for our medical professionals to ensure they can address the situation,” Espinoza said.
He said there have been many parents of children who are diagnosed with autism and believe their children would benefit from medical marijuana.
“Some of these children are taking a variety of pills, sometimes up to a dozen,” Espinoza said. “I have concerns with what their future health will look like by taking so many pills and what damage can be done.”
Espinoza said using medical marijuana as treatment has shown to be beneficial in other states.
“There has been significant improvements in other states, especially in Colorado,” Espinoza said. “We allow medical professionals to make that decision and it shouldn’t be legislators denying that opportunity for a better life for the child.”
In addition, Espinoza said he has a proposal for $10 million broadband expansion, especially in the northern portion of the Valley. He said he wants to ensure future generations will have dependable infrastructure.
“We need to ensure that we have the proper infrastructure for the safety of our constituents, as well as our first-responders to ensure they can get to and from these emergencies in a timely manner and ensuring we have clean water along the way for years to come,” Espinoza said.
“We’re also looking at areas of the rural community, making sure they have the same opportunities to stay connected to ensure the future of Arizona, especially in the digital age.”
In addition, Espinoza is working on a pilot program for three years for mental health. It focuses on students in kindergarten through fifth grade. It entails having counselors and coaches work with teachers to identify children who may have difficulties.
“Ensuring that we have mental health counselors and coaches to team up with teachers to identify those children that perhaps are having difficulties at home or school to ensure that we can combat that,” Espinoza said.
Espinoza said it is important to have a critical understanding of a child’s mental health at that age, as it can lead to healthy upbringing if problems are caught early on.
“If we can address the situations of mental health with youth at an earlier age, we would be so far ahead of many other possibilities of a disruption of classes when instructors may have to deal with one specific child,” Espinoza said.