It’s Time to Prioritize Our Mental Health in Colorado

Between starting the new year with a pandemic that just won’t seem to quit and the most destructive fire in our state’s history, it’s no wonder more Coloradans than ever are struggling with their mental health. We are in a state of distress.

Colorado ranked 51st in access to mental health services this year, and it’s time to acknowledge and act upon the fact that our state is not where it should be when it comes to making sure everyone gets the compassionate, timely care they need. Between an involuntary treatment system that hasn’t been updated in decades, an inadequate safety net system of care, growing wait lists for access to care and beds, a crisis of homelessness, and a continuing over-reliance on law enforcement and the criminal justice system for Coloradans with unmet health needs, we have our work cut out for us.

Some good news is that, thanks to a one-time infusion of funding from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) and engaged and dedicated state leadership, we have the resources and political will to enact meaningful change. We’re pushing for big reforms in 2022 to protect the most vulnerable in our state and ensure no more mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, friends, and loved ones slip through the cracks.

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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.

    HB22-1052 Promoting Crisis Services to Students: requires each student I.D. card issued to a public school student to contain the phone number, website address, and text talk number for the 24-hour Colorado crisis services. 

    HB22-1131 Reduce Justice-involvement For Young Children: raises the current minimum age for juvenile court jurisdiction, thereby prohibiting arrest, prosecution, and detention of children aged 12 and younger, except for homicide cases, protecting them from the negative impacts of formal justice system involvement and reducing future risk to community safety.

    HB22-1243 School Security and School Behavioral Health Services Funding: creates the school security disbursement program cash fund and appropriates $6,000,000 to the fund, which the department of public safety may disburse to school districts, charter schools, and boards of cooperative services to improve security within public schools. The bill continues the temporary youth mental health services program and the bi-annual reporting requirements until June 30, 2024, and appropriates $2 million from the behavioral and mental health cash fund to the department of education for the behavioral health care professional matching grant program.

    HB22-1283 Youth And Family Behavioral Health Care: creates in-home and residential respite care in 10-12 regions of the state for children and families; provides operational support for psychiatric residential treatment facilities and qualified residential treatment programs for youth; provides funds to build and staff a neuro-psych facility at the Colorado mental health institute at Fort Logan. The bill requires the general assembly to appropriate money from the behavioral and mental health cash fund to the department of human services to implement the provisions of the bill.

    SB22-008 Higher Education Support for Foster Youth: Requires all public higher education institutions in Colorado to waive undergraduate tuition and fees for Colorado resident students who have been in foster care. The institutions are required to designate an employee to serve as a liaison to qualifying or prospective qualifying students. 

    SB22-087 Healthy Meals for All Public School Students: creates the ‘healthy school meals for all’ program in the department of education to reimburse school food authorities for free meals provided to students who are not eligible for free or reduced-price meals under the federal school meals programs. 

    • 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.

      HB22-1005 Health-care Preceptors Tax Credit: expands the number of health-care preceptors (experienced practitioners who teach and supervise students or less experienced practitioners) who can claim the tax credit, extends the tax credit through 2033, expands eligibility to offer and participate in preceptorship, allows for the counting of nonconsecutive days, and puts in place some definition and certification changes. 

      HB22-1051 Mod Affordable Housing Tax Credit: extends the state credit program through 2034 and increases the amount of credit the Colorado Housing & Finance Authority may allocate annually from $10 million to $15 million starting January 1, 2023. The current program is set to expire in 2024. 

      HB22-1067 Clarifying Changes to Ensure Prompt Bond Hearings: requires district courts to hold an initial bond hearing with an arrested individual within 48 hours of the person being detained regardless of the day of the week. Under current law, the requirement is “within 2 calendar days – excluding Sundays and holidays.” 

      HB22-1094 Medicaid Assistance for Survivors of Torture: grants a survivor of torture who is receiving care and rehabilitation services from a rehabilitative service provider eligibility for medical assistance without federal financial participation. 

      HB22-1214 Behavioral Health Crisis Response System: requires crisis system facilities and programs, including crisis walk-in centers and mobile crisis programs, to meet minimum standards to provide mental health and substance use disorder services.

      HB22-1256 Modifications to Civil Involuntary Commitment: modifies current laws that set forth (1) emergency procedures to transport a person for a screening and to detain a person for a 72-hour treatment and evaluation, as well as (2) procedures to certify a person for short-term or long-term care and treatment, if the person appears to have a mental health disorder. More specifically, it changes who is responsible for transporting the person, limits who can take a person into protective custody and transfer them, requires the transfer facility to document fully the conditions under which they received a person in protective custody among other screening and rights updates for the person in protective custody.

      HB22-1281 Behavioral Health-care Continuum Gap Grant Program: appropriates $90 million from the behavioral and mental health cash fund to the state department for the establishment and execution of  the community behavioral health-care continuum gap grant program in the behavioral health administration. The BHA must develop a behavioral health-care services assessment tool that grant applicants can use to identify regional gaps in services on the behavioral health-care service continuum.

      HB22-1284 Health Insurance Surprise Billing Protections: changes current state law to align with the federal ‘No Surprises Act’.

      HB22-1377 Grant Program Providing Responses to Homelessness: creates the connecting Coloradans experiencing homelessness with services, treatment, and housing supports grant program, administered by the division of housing in the department of local affairs.

      SB22-005 Law Enforcement Agency Peace Officer Services: allocates $5 million to create a pilot grant program that will help local law enforcement officials recruit, train, and retain police officers from diverse backgrounds, and improve diversity in policing. The bill also allocates an additional $5 million to the Peace Officers Behavioral Health Support and Community Partnership Fund, which can be used for mental health support for law enforcement as well as alternative community response and co-responder models. 

      SB22-077 Interstate Licensed Professional Counselor Compact: enacts the “Interstate Licensed Professional Counselors Compact”, which, once effective, will allow licensed professional counselors in any state that has joined the compact (member state) to provide (1) licensed professional counselor services in each member state under a privilege to practice and (2) Telehealth services in each member state under a privilege to practice. 

      SB22-106 Conflict of Interest in Public Behavioral Health: requires each managed care entity, administrative service organization, and managed service organization that has 25% or more provider ownership to comply with certain conflict of interest policies in order to promote transparency and accountability.

      SB22-177 Investments in Care Coordination Infrastructure: requires the BHA to train new and existing navigators on behavioral health safety net system services, behavioral health service delivery procedures, and social determinants of health resources; ensure that the care coordination infrastructure can direct individuals where to seek in-person or virtual navigation support; ensure that the administrative burden associated with provider enrollment and credentialing for navigators and care coordination providers is minimal; and include a summary of outcomes for individuals who access the infrastructure in the BHA’s annual report. For the 2022-23 state fiscal year, the bill requires the general assembly to appropriate $12.2 million from the behavioral and mental health cash fund to the department of human services for use by the behavioral health administration for the care coordination infrastructure.

      SB22-181 Behavioral Health-care Workforce: requires the behavioral health administration (BHA) in the department of human services (department) to create and implement a behavioral health-care provider workforce plan on or before September 1, 2022.

      • 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.

        HB22-1052 Promoting Crisis Services to Students: requires each student I.D. card issued to students to contain the phone number, website address, and text talk number for the 24-hour Colorado crisis services. 

        HB22-1289 Health Benefits For Colorado Children And Pregnant Persons: provides comprehensive public health insurance coverage to children, pregnant and postpartum undocumented Coloradans, and make a number of other investments in perinatal care and services in Colorado,

        SB22-053 Health Facility Visitation During Pandemic: specifies that a patient admitted to a hospital for inpatient care and a resident of a nursing care facility or assisted living residence may have at least one visitor of the patient’s or resident’s choosing during the stay or residency. 

        • 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.

          HB22-1035 Modernization of The Older Coloradans’ Act: updates the “Older Coloradans’ Act.” The purpose of the act is to support older Coloradans through community planning, social services, health and well-being services, and strategies to prepare the state’s infrastructure for an increasing older population of Coloradans. 

          SB22-079 Dementia Training Requirements Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment Department of Health Care Policy and Financing Rules: requires the following facilities to provide dementia training for staff providing direct-care services to clients and residents of the facilities:

          • the department of public health and environment, regarding nursing care facilities and assisted living residences
          • the medical services board in the department of health care policy and financing, regarding adult day care facilities 

          SB22-185 Security for Colorado Seniors: renames the area agency on aging grant program to the strategic investments in aging grant program. The grant program administers state assistance to finance projects across the state that are intended to assist and support older Coloradans. The bill extends the grant program indefinitely to continue the support of projects that promote the health, equity, well-being, and security of older Coloradans across the state.

          SB22-189 Colorado Geriatric Provider Pipeline: creates the Colorado multidisciplinary geriatric provider pipeline program in the university of Colorado Anschutz medical campus. The program coordinates and expands geriatric training opportunities for clinical graduate students enrolled in participating institutions of higher education who study in the health-care fields of medicine, medicine with a focus on training to be a physician assistant, dentistry, pharmacy, nursing, psychology, and social work. It also creates the geriatric training executive advisory committee to ensure that the training for the program is consistent and collaborative across the health-care fields of study.

          • 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.

            SB22-027 Prescription Drug Monitoring Program: clarifies that each licensed health-care practitioner must query the prescription drug monitoring program prior to filling a prescription for every opioid or benzodiazepine and requires the group tasked with developing a strategic plan to reduce prescription drug misuse to also make recommendations to the executive director of the department of regulatory agencies concerning balancing the use of the program as a health-care tool with enforcement of the requirements of the program. 

            • 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.

              HB22-1061 Modifications to Not Guilty by Reason of Insanity: Allows the Court to order an individual found not guilty by reason of insanity (NGRI) to be placed on conditional release immediately after being acquitted NGRI. It also sets up more regular reporting to the court related to the need for NGRI clients to remain institutionalized at CMHIP. 

              HB22-1063 Jail Standards Commission: creates the Colorado jail standards commission in the department of public safety. The commission creates standards for the operation of Colorado’s county jails and updates the standards as necessary. 

              HB22-1067 Clarifying Changes to Ensure Prompt Bond Hearings: requires district courts to hold an initial bond hearing with an arrested individual within 48 hours of the person being detained regardless of the day of the week. Under current law, the requirement is “within 2 calendar days – excluding Sundays and holidays.” 

              SB22-010 Pretrial Diversion for Person with Behavioral Health: expands the existing pretrial diversion program to include diversion programs that are intended to identify eligible individuals with behavioral health disorders and divert such individuals out of the criminal justice system and into community treatment programs. 

              SB22-018 Expand Court Reminder Program: requires every defendant to be automatically enrolled in the court reminder program and allows a defendant to opt out of the program and requires the program to provide at least 3 reminders (rather than 2), including one reminder the day before the court appearance, and, for court appearances that can be attended virtually, the final reminder must include a link to the virtual court appearance. 

              SB22-067 Safe Neighborhoods Grant Program: creates in the peace officers standards and training (P.O.S.T.) board the safe neighborhoods grant program to provide grants to local law enforcement agencies to provide critical incident training to the agencies’ peace officers. 

              SB22-196 Health Needs of Persons in Criminal Justice System: establishes the early intervention, deflection, and redirection from the criminal justice system grant program in the behavioral health administration (BHA) to provide grants to local governments, federally recognized Indian tribes, health-care providers, community-based organizations, and nonprofit organizations to fund programs and strategies that prevent people with behavioral health needs from becoming involved with the criminal justice system or that redirect individuals in the criminal justice system with behavioral health needs from the system to appropriate services.

              • End discrimination

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

                HB22-1061 Modifications to Not Guilty by Reason of Insanity: Allows the Court to order an individual found not guilty by reason of insanity (NGRI) to be placed on conditional release immediately after being acquitted NGRI. It also sets up more regular reporting to the court related to the need for NGRI clients to remain institutionalized at CMHIP. 

                HB22-1256 Modifications to Civil Involuntary Commitment: modifies current laws that set forth (1) emergency procedures to transport a person for a screening and to detain a person for a 72-hour treatment and evaluation, as well as (2) procedures to certify a person for short-term or long-term care and treatment, if the person appears to have a mental health disorder. More specifically, it changes who is responsible for transporting the person, limits who can take a person into protective custody and transfer them, requires the transfer facility to document fully the conditions under which they received a person in protective custody among other screening and rights updates for the person in protective custody.

                SB22-079 Dementia Training Requirements Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment Department of Healthcare Policy and Financing Rules: requires the following facilities to provide dementia training for staff providing direct-care services to clients and residents of the facilities:

                • the department of public health and environment, regarding nursing care facilities and assisted living residences
                • the medical services board in the department of health care policy and financing, regarding adult day care facilities 

              Legislation We Oppose

              Federal Legislation We Follow