Our physical health and our mental health are not separate.

Millions have been forced into isolation and society’s anxiety remains high due to the economic and health impacts of COVID-19. As we continue to hope for recovery from the physical effects of the pandemic, a secondary pandemic of mental health and substance use concern has started to ravage our state and we must be prepared to deal with the increased need and demand for care and services.

The 2021 policy platform addresses pandemic response and recovery.

Advocacy Priority: Protect existing funding for behavioral health services and supports: According to a recent article from the Colorado Health Institute, there have been 443 recorded overdose deaths from January to April 2020 in Colorado. This represents a 35% increase from the same time period in 2019. According to CHI, “the starkest difference can be seen for both March and April — the first few months of the COVID-19 lockdown. April saw a jump from 15.0 to 24.1 deaths per 100,000 people.” Colorado needs to be equally prepared to deal with the secondary health impacts from the pandemic: increased mental health and substance use issues in our communities. Our state needs to invest in behavioral health services and supports, instead of cutting needed funding.

Contact your representatives to support healthier minds across the lifespan

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Icons indicate primary Mental Health Colorado bills 

  • Strong start for all children

    We develop brains and behaviors at a rapid pace, not fully maturing until as late as our mid-20s. Preventative care and healthy learning environments are central to ensuring healthy minds and bright futures.

    HB21-1094 Foster Youth In Transition Program: Creates a foster youth-in-transition program to be implemented throughout the state. The program will allow foster youth who meet eligibility criteria to voluntarily continue to receive certain child welfare services (services) so that youth do not lose access to essential services on their eighteenth birthday.

    HB21-1161 Suspend State Assessments For Select Grades: Suspends state assessments in the 2020-21 school year.

    HB21-1258 Rapid Mental Health Response For Colorado Youth: Allocates funding to provide screenings and 3 free mental health sessions to support Colorado’s youth in pandemic recovery. The program will begin no later than May 31, 2021, and will run until June 30, 2022.

    • Access to housing, supports, and services

      Having a place to call home is an essential element of good mental health across the lifespan. Access to supports and services prolongs life and enhances mental health outcomes.

      Hb21-1021: Peer Support Professionals Behavioral Health: Expands the reach of peer recovery support service programs by ensuring that peers are more widely available, reasonably compensated, and well trained.

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      HB21-1072 Equal Access Services for Out-Of-Home Placements: Fair and equal access to all available programs, benefits, and services related to out-of-home placement must be provided in a manner that is culturally responsive to the complex social identity of the youth receiving such services. A service provider is prohibited from denying any person the opportunity to become an adoptive or a foster parent, or delaying or denying the placement of a child for adoption or into foster care, on the basis of the real or perceived disability, race, creed, religion, color, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, marital status, national origin, ancestry, or any communicable disease, including HIV, of the prospective adoptive or foster parent or the child.

      HB21-1097 Establish Behavioral Health Administration: Creates a Behavioral Health Administration (BHA) to lead, promote, and administer Colorado’s behavioral health priorities.

      HB21-1130 Expand Transitional Specialist Program: Expands the community transition specialist program by redefining “high-risk individual” to allow more individuals to access program services. The bill also expands facilities that can access program services.

      HB21-1166 Behavioral Health Crisis Response Training: Establishes a training and treatment model for those who work with individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities and co-occurring behavioral health needs.

      SB21-154 988 Suicide Prevention Lifeline Network: Colorado’s suicide rate is one of the highest in the nation, especially for youth. Studies show most suicide attempts are made within three hours or less of someone having suicidal thoughts, and some in as little as 5 minutes. Colorado needs a fast and easily accessible support system for individuals in need of immediate mental health services and supports. The proposed bill would enact federal legislation establishing the 9-8-8 crisis response number and creates a sustainable funding option for receiving and responding to those calls in the community.

      • Support for families

        Strong, healthy families are vitally important to strong, healthy individuals. Education, childcare, stable housing, meaningful employment, and access to health care are all essential to family wellbeing.

        HB21-1068 Insurance Coverage Mental Health Wellness Exam: Requires that health plans cover annual mental health wellness exams, performed by qualified mental health care providers, comparable to the coverage for an annual physical wellness exam.

        HB21-1121- Residential Tenancy Procedures: Extends the period of eviction notices and actions, and prohibits residential landlords from increasing rent more than once in a 12-month period.

        SB21-039 Elimination of Subminimum Wage Employment: Phases out subminimum wage for employers who are authorized to pay less than the minimum wage to employees whose earning capacity is impaired by age, physical or mental disability, or injury.

        SB21-075 Supported Decision-Making Agreement: Allows an adult with a disability to enter into a decision-making agreement with a member of the supportive community to assist the individual in accessing, understanding, and communicating any relevant life decisions.

        • Wellness in aging

          From childhood to old age, the quality of our lives depends on our mental health.  Every phase of life brings its own challenges and opportunities for continuing mental growth and development.

          Hb21-1021: Peer Support Professionals Behavioral Health: Expands the reach of peer recovery support service programs by ensuring that peers are more widely available, reasonably compensated, and well trained.

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          HB21-1119 Suicide Prevention, Intervention & Postvention: Broadens Colorado’s suicide prevention efforts to include intervention and postvention. Importantly, it will help ensure training and education for health care providers, first and last responders, and educators, and develop a plan for follow-up care for suicide attempt survivors who are treated in an emergency department.

          HB21-1121- Residential Tenancy Procedures: Extends the period of eviction notices and actions, and prohibits residential landlords from increasing rent more than once in a 12-month period.

          SB21-075 Supported Decision-Making Agreement: Allows an adult with a disability to enter into a decision-making agreement with a member of the supportive community to assist the individual in accessing, understanding, and communicating any relevant life decisions.

          SB21-154 988 Suicide Prevention Lifeline Network: Colorado’s suicide rate is one of the highest in the nation, especially for youth. Studies show most suicide attempts are made within three hours or less of someone having suicidal thoughts, and some in as little as 5 minutes. Colorado needs a fast and easily accessible support system for individuals in need of immediate mental health services and supports. The proposed bill would enact federal legislation establishing the 9-8-8 crisis response number and creates a sustainable funding option for receiving and responding to those calls in the community.

          • Reduced potential harm from drugs and alcohol

            Drugs and alcohol have been a part of our landscape throughout history. From childhood onward, we thrive if we can reap their benefits while reducing their potential for great harm.

            SB21-122 Opiate Antagonist Bulk Purchase And Standing Orders: This bill would make it easier to purchase opiate antagonists to increasingly reduce the harms from opiates.

            SB21-137 Behavioral Health Recovery Act: This omnibus bill allocates money to a number of valuable mental health and substance use programs.

            Proposed Bill – Ensure responsible practices for the prescribing of benzodiazepines: When prescribing benzodiazepines, prescribers must check to see that other medicines that could threaten the patient’s life have not already been prescribed.

            • Decriminalize mental health

              As many of those working in law enforcement understand more clearly than most, the criminal justice system is our first and only—and completely inappropriate, ineffective, and costly—response to people’s need for mental health and substance use care. Building health care capacity and supportive housing so that we can disentangle mental health and criminal justice will improve health outcomes, save taxpayer dollars, and enhance community wellbeing.

              HB21-1085 Secure Transportation Behavioral Health Crisis: Creates regulation to provide more appropriate transportation services, different from patrol cars or traditional ambulance services, for individuals experiencing a behavioral health crisis.

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              HB21-1030 Expanding Peace Officers Mental Health Grant Program: Expands the peace officers mental health support grant program to include funding for on-scene response services to enhance law enforcement’s handling of calls for services related to persons with mental health disorders and social service needs.

              HB21-1120- License Private Security Guards: Creates the “Guard Training and Standards Act” that would create standards and regulations for private security guards and require private security guards to obtain a license to practice.

              HB21-1211 Regulation of Restrictive Housing in Jails: Ends the use of solitary confinement in Colorado jails for people with specific health conditions. As with many other states in the nation, individuals with serious mental health conditions are entering the criminal justice system at alarming rates, often as a result of unmet health needs. Not only are individuals with mental health conditions more likely to be incarcerated longer, they are also more likely to be placed in solitary confinement while in jail. The practice of solitary confinement has detrimental impacts on individuals with health conditions such as mental health disorders and dementia. Multiple studies have shown that the psychological stress created from solitary is comparable to the distress of physical torture.

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              SB21-062 Jail Population Management Tools: This bill will reduce the number of people incarcerated pretrial. It limits the use of money bonds for misdemeanors and low-level felonies to cases where there is a safety risk or a flight risk.

              SB21-066 Juvenile Diversion Programs: Makes changes to the current juvenile diversion program to reduce harm from juvenile involvement in the justice system.

              SB21-138 Improve Brain Injury Support in Criminal Justice System: Creates a pilot program to determine whether a brain injury program would improve outcomes for offenders. The bill would also identify and support individuals with a brain injury in the criminal justice system.

              Study Area: Keep a spotlight on enhanced sentencing laws and other practices that disproportionately impact individuals in a mental health crisis by engaging stakeholders and key decisions makers on the issue

              No one should fear calling 911 when they or their loved one is in a mental health crisis because they fear they will end up in jail with felony charges, or worse. We are spearheading continued conversations about effective ways to keep first responders safe while not criminalizing individuals who need crisis services.

              • End shame and discrimination

                Mental health—like physical health—is part of who we are. Increasingly, we need to be understanding and compassionate with ourselves and others.

                HB21-1119 Suicide Prevention, Intervention & Postvention: Broadens Colorado’s suicide prevention efforts to include intervention and postvention. Importantly, it will help ensure training and education for health care providers, first and last responders, and educators, and develop a plan for follow-up care for suicide attempt survivors who are treated in an emergency department.

                HB21-1122 First Responder Interactions Persons With Disabilities: Establishes a commission in the attorney general’s office that will work to improve first responder training concerning interactions with persons with disabilities.

                Study Area: Create a stakeholder process to outline best practices when individuals are placed on an involuntary hold

                Individuals who are placed on involuntary mental health holds often experience traumatic and discriminatory practices that lead to further harm. Colorado needs to reassess what happens to consumers during and after an involuntary civil commitment to ensure better treatment and outcomes for that individual.

              Legislation We Oppose