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

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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.

    HB23-1003 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.

    HB23-1191 Prohibit Corporal Punishment Of Children: prohibits a person employed by or volunteering in a public school, a state-licensed child care center, a family child care home, or a specialized group facility from imposing corporal punishment on a child. The bill defines “corporal punishment” as the willful infliction of, or willfully causing the infliction of, physical pain on a child.

    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.

    SB23-082 Colorado Fostering Success Voucher Program: establishes the Colorado fostering success voucher program in the department of human services. The purpose of the program is to provide housing vouchers and case management services to eligible youth.

    SB23-174 Access to Certain 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.

      HB23-1120 Eviction Protections for Residential Tenants: requires a landlord and residential tenant to participate in mandatory mediation prior to commencing an eviction action if the residential tenant receives supplemental security income, federal social security disability insurance, or cash assistance through the Colorado works program.

      HB23-1130 Drug Coverage for Serious Mental Illness: defines “serious mental illness” and prohibits the protocols from requiring a person to try more than one prescription drug prior to receiving coverage for the drug recommended by the person’s health-care provider. If certain conditions are met and attested to by the person’s health-care provider, the carrier, private utilization review organization, or pharmacy benefit manager must cover the drug recommended by the person’s health-care provider.

      HB23-1200 Improved Outcomes Person Behavioral Health: creates a behavioral health treatment voucher pilot program to allow persons experiencing a behavioral health crisis who cannot find treatment with a behavioral health administration safety net provider to receive a voucher to use for payment with a private treatment provider.

      HB23-1209 Analyze Statewide Publicly Financed Health-care: requires the Colorado school of public health to analyze model legislation for implementing a publicly financed and privately delivered universal health-care payment system for Colorado that directly compensates providers.

      HB23-1268 Private Treatment for Out-of-state Defendant: clarifies the process for treating a supervised or unsupervised person in a private treatment program in Colorado and directs the program to assist the supervised or unsupervised person with registering with the interstate compact administrator.

      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.

      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.

      SB23-176 Protections for People with an Eating Disorder: prohibits certain health benefit plans or the state medical assistance program from utilizing the body mass index, ideal body weight, or any other standard requiring an achieved weight when determining medical necessity criteria or appropriate level of care for an individual with a diagnosed eating disorder. This bill prohibits a retail establishment from selling, transferring, or otherwise furnishing dietary supplements for weight loss or over-the-counter diet pills to any individual under 18 years of age without a prescription. This bill requires the behavioral health administration (BHA) to promulgate rules concerning forced feeding tubes for individuals with an eating disorder and, no later than July 1, 2024, the bill requires the BHA to require all eating disorder treatment and recovery facilities to hold an appropriate designation based on the level of care the facility provides.

      • 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.

        HB23-1118 Fair Workweek Employment Standards: imposes requirements for certain types of employers with regard to: (1) The determination of employee work schedules; (2) Employee requests for changes to work schedules; and (3) Notices and posting of employee work schedules.

        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.

          HB23-1158 Colorado Commodity Supplemental Food Grant Program: creates the Colorado commodity supplemental food grant program to provide grants of money to aid county departments of human or social services, food banks, and food pantries in purchasing and distributing food packages to qualifying low-income older Colorado adults.

          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.

          SB23-144 Prescription Drugs for Chronic Pain: allows a health-care provider to prescribe, dispense, or administer a schedule II, III, IV, or V controlled substance to a patient in the course of treatment for a diagnosed condition that causes chronic pain.

          • 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.

            HB23-1167 Reporting of Emergency Overdose Events: extends immunity from arrest and prosecution to the following criminal offenses: (1) Unlawful possession of a controlled substance if the material, compound, mixture, or preparation contains fentanyl, carfentanil, benzimidazole opiate, or an analog thereof; and (2) unlawful distribution or transfer of the controlled substance for the purpose of consuming all of the controlled substance with another person at a time substantially contemporaneous with the transfer, if the distribution or transfer involves certain controlled substances.

            HB23-1202 Overdose Prevention Center Authorization: specifies that a city may authorize the operation of an overdose prevention center within the city’s jurisdiction for the purpose of saving the lives of persons at risk of preventable overdoses.

            • 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.

              HB23-1138 Procedures Related to Adult Competency: removes the requirement that if a defendant is in jail or an inpatient setting, a finding that the defendant is an imminent danger to the defendant’s self or others is required for the competency evaluation and report.

              HB23-1169 Limit Arrest for Low-level Offenses: prohibits a peace officer from arresting a person based solely on the alleged commission of a petty offense, except for petty theft, a drug petty offense, a class 2 traffic misdemeanor or comparable municipal offense, and all municipal offenses for which there is no comparable state misdemeanor offense, unless the location of the person is unknown and the issuance of an arrest warrant is necessary in order to subject the person to the jurisdiction of the court.

              • 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