Colorado’s Mental Health System Has Reached a Turning Point

As a state, we have decided to do business differently in order to yield better results for all Coloradans, which is vital when it comes to mental health and substance use care.

This year, Mental Health Colorado is especially focused on how people experience mental health and substance use services and supports. As the true experts, people with lived and living experience continue to be our north star. From tackling treatment quality and discriminatory insurance policies for eating disorders – one of the deadliest mental health conditions in the US – to ensuring we are not unnecessarily requiring our youngest children be labeled with diagnoses before providing them with access to timely support, we want to make sure the quality of care and supports people experience is consistently outstanding. 

Additionally, we know that we will continue to see laws and practices that unnecessarily entangle people who have mental health and substance use conditions within the criminal and juvenile justice systems. We will continue to make it a top priority to defend against bills that criminalize symptoms of behavioral health conditions. Our friends and family members deserve #CareNotCuffs. 

Mental Health Colorado will continue fighting for policies that prioritize the health and well-being of all Coloradans from the start of life to its end. Read on to learn about the legislation we are championing, supporting, opposing, and amending this session.

                         Should you have any questions, please reach out to Lauren Snyder at LSnyder@MentalHealthColorado.org.

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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.

    HB23-1005 School Mental Health Assessment: creates the sixth through twelfth grade mental health assessment program administered by the department of public health and environment. The bill authorizes the department to promulgate rules as necessary to implement and administer the program.

    HB23-1008 Food Accessibility: requires additions to Colorado taxable income in amounts equal to the business meals federal itemized deduction, providing funding for the small business recovery and resilience grant program, creating a tax credit for certain purchases eligible for that grant program, and providing funding for healthy eating program incentives.

    HB23-1009 Secondary School Student Substance Use: creates the secondary school student substance use committee (committee) in the department of education (department) to develop a practice, or identify or modify an existing practice, for secondary schools to implement that identifies students who need substance use treatment, offers a brief intervention, and refers the student to substance use treatment resources.

    HB23-1012 Juvenile Competency to Proceed: addresses issues related to a determination of juvenile competency to proceed and restoration of competency. If the court determines that the juvenile is incompetent to proceed and unlikely to be restored to competency in the reasonably foreseeable future, a time frame is set forth for the dismissal of charges based on the severity and type of charge.

    SB23-029 Disproportionate Discipline in Public Schools: requires each school district board of education, institute charter school board for a charter school authorized by the state charter school institute, or governing board of a board of cooperative services to adopt a policy to address disproportionate disciplinary practices in public schools.

    SB23-039 Reduce Child and Incarcerated Parent Separation: requires the department of human services to promulgate rules that facilitate communication and family time between children and their parents who are incarcerated.

    SB23-091 Access to Behavioral Health Services: requires the department of health care policy and financing to create a limited risk factors that influence health benefit for medicaid recipients under 21 years of age who experience a qualifying risk factor that influences health. The bill requires the benefit to include access to certain behavioral health services.

    • 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.

      HB23-1007 Higher Education Crisis & Suicide Prevention: requires public and private higher education institutions to print Colorado and national crisis and suicide prevention contact information on student identification cards. If an institution does not use student identification cards, the bill requires the school to distribute Colorado and national crisis and suicide prevention contact information to the student body each semester or trimester.

      HB23-1013 Use of Restrictive Practices in Prisons: regulates the use of restrictive practices on individuals in correctional facilities. The bill prohibits the use of a clinical restraint on an individual unless certain criteria are met, and requires facilities that utilize clinical restraints to implement procedures to ensure frequent and consistent monitoring for the individual subjected to the clinical restraint and uniform documentation procedures concerning the use of the clinical restraint.

      SB23-002 Medicaid Reimbursement for Community Health Services: authorizes the department of health care policy and financing to seek federal authorization from the centers for medicare and medicaid services to provide medicaid reimbursement for community health worker services.

      SB23-033 Medicaid Preauthorization Exemption: prohibits the department of health care policy and financing from imposing prior authorization, step therapy, and fail first requirements for medicaid coverage of a prescription drug, as indicated on federally approved labels, to treat serious mental health disorders.

      • Support for families

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

        SB23-027 Food Pantry Assistance Grant Program: appropriates $3 million annually from the general fund to the food pantry assistance grant program for the 2023-24 state fiscal year through the 2026-27 state fiscal year.

        SB23-017 Additional Uses Paid Sick Leave: allows an employee to use accrued paid sick leave when the employee needs to (1) care for a family member whose school or place of care has been closed due to inclement weather, loss of power, loss of heating, loss of water, or other unexpected occurrence or event that results in the closure of the family member’s school or place of care; or (2) grieve, attend funeral services or a memorial, or deal with financial and legal matters that arise after the death of a family member.

        • 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.

          SB23-031 Improve Health-care Access for Older Coloradans: creates the Colorado multidisciplinary health-care provider access training program (program) to improve the health care of medically complex, costly, compromised, and vulnerable older Coloradans.

          • 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.

            • 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.

              • 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.

                HB23-1032 Remedies Persons with Disabilities: makes 3 primary clarifications about the remedies a person with a disability is entitled to under current Colorado law related to protections against discrimination on the basis of disability for persons with disabilities. It allows a court to award reasonable attorney fees and costs to a prevailing plaintiff for any action commenced pursuant to certain Colorado law related to protections against discrimination on the basis of disability for persons with disabilities.

              Legislation We Oppose

              Federal Legislation We Follow