Mental Health Colorado is your voice for creating healthier minds across the lifespan. For more than 65 years, Mental Health Colorado has led the charge to promote mental wellness, end shame and discrimination, and ensure equitable access to mental health and substance use care.
The challenges of the pandemic in 2020, including the interrupted legislative session and public and private revenue shortfalls, significantly altered the fiscal outcomes of our mental health and substance use policy work. When lawmakers returned to the Capitol, legislative leadership announced that no bills would move forward this session unless they were free, fast, and friendly (meaning no opposition). Mental Health Colorado had to come up with innovative ways to get our bills passed. A great deal of effort went into finding ways to implement the policy contained in a specific bill without any funding attached to it. Though this proved insurmountable with some bills, as you will see in this report, we ultimately ended the session with greater success than the unusual circumstances had led us to anticipate at the onset of the pandemic.
Given our heartfelt understanding that Black Lives Matter, it is important to note that a number of the bills we supported—reflecting our historical commitment to health equity—address or correct for disparities that have been disproportionately harmful to Colorado’s Black communities and other communities of color throughout the state’s history. Across the board, from maternal health to preventable justice-involvement to mortality rates, the consequences of systemic racism are evident in population health data.
Mental Health Colorado took a position on four of the ballot issues that stood before voters in the 2020 general election. There were eleven total ballot issues—three were referred measures by the legislature, and eight were citizen initiatives.
Families Matter for Mental Health
Proposition 118: Paid Family Leave – PASSED
Mental Health Colorado prioritizes supporting families, which yields valuable returns in the long-term health of children and young people. Paid family and medical leave is an essential building block for healthy families, strong communities, and thriving economies.
When we think about the purpose of a human community and the aim of supporting health across the lifespan, we must acknowledge that we are living in a society where many working people have to absorb a damaging financial setback when they take time off for family or medical reasons. There is something inherently unhealthy and inhumane about a society that makes Coloradans choose between paying their bills and providing a strong start for their children or caring for their own or a loved one’s health. – Vincent Atchity, President & CEO, Mental Health Colorado.
Funding for Mental Health
Amendment B – PASSED
The legislature has referred Amendment B to the ballot with strong bipartisan support. It repeals a decades-old amendment that no longer works as intended and results in a reduction in local revenues that fund public schools, human services, and mental health programs. The repeal of the amendment will ensure that services and programs that are vitally important to individual and community health and wellbeing can remain in place and effective.
Proposition 116: State Income Tax Rate Reduction – PASSED
More than half of the Coloradans who need care don’t receive it, yet limited public funding poses a constant threat of further reducing access to mental health and substance use care and other services that are essential to wellbeing, like education. Proposition 116 would reduce the state income tax from 4.63% to 4.55%. This reduction would save less than $100 per year for most Coloradans–the biggest tax savings would go to those with incomes of over $1 million per year. Our greatest concern is that the measure would reduce state income tax revenue by $154 million in its first budget year, causing many Coloradans, especially children and young adults, to go without the health care and other vital services that they need to thrive and to contribute to the state’s prosperity.