Colorado Bill To Provide Free Mental Health Services To Colorado Youth In Response To Pandemic’s Impact

April 15, 2021

Media Contact:
Flora Welsh, Communications Manager

Colorado Bill To Provide Free Mental Health Services To Colorado Youth In Response To Pandemic’s Impact

Denver — The disruptions and challenges to children’s mental health resulting from the pandemic have inspired the Colorado state legislature to work on a solution to deliver recovery-focused care to Colorado’s youth before the start of the next academic year. Mental Health Colorado supports House Bill 21-1258 Rapid Mental Health Response For Colorado’s Youth which will allocate $9 million to provide free screenings and three free mental health sessions, in person or virtual, to the state’s kids.

The bill states, “since the pandemic began, the Colorado crisis services hotline has experienced a thirty percent increase in calls and texts, and Children’s Hospital Colorado has seen a ten percent increase in the number of kids who visit the psychiatric emergency department due to thoughts of suicide.”

“The coronavirus crisis has brought with it all kinds of grief, loneliness, disengagement, and stress, that have disrupted the lives of our kids,” said Vincent Atchity, President and CEO of Mental Health Colorado. “The challenges of this last year will likely continue to affect kids past the pandemic and, possibly, across their lifespans. Early intervention is known to be effective in promoting healthy outcomes…the sooner the better.”

The measure would require that Colorado create a portal by May 31, 2021 where children can sign up for mental health screenings and services. The program would run until June 30, 2022. This effort in support of pandemic recovery illustrates Colorado’s commitment to a stronger start for all children and signals to the thousands of young people and their families who have struggled over the past year that their mental health needs are acknowledged and will not go unmet.

“Colorado youth needed more mental health support even before the pandemic began,” said Robert Werthwein, Director of the Colorado Department of Human Services, Office of Behavioral Health. “We cannot afford to fail these youth, and this bill will provide easy access for youth to get help from a professional in a supportive environment.”

Representative Dafna Michaelson Jenet, a prime sponsor of the legislation, added, “we know that kids who have timely access to care right now, as we emerge from this global health crisis, are much more likely to recover and thrive as they should. We need to get the ball rolling and make sure every kid in Colorado gets the mental health support they need. Now is the time.”

House Bill 1258 has bipartisan support from bill sponsors Representatives Dafna Michaelson Jenet (D) and Kevin Van Winkle (R), and Senators Janet Buckner (D) and Rob Woodward (R). The bill will be discussed at the Public & Behavioral Health & Human Services committee at 1:30 p.m. on Tuesday, April 20.

About Mental Health Colorado:

Mental Health Colorado is the state’s leading advocate for promoting mental well-being, ending shame and discrimination, and ensuring equitable access to mental health and substance use care. We are a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization and affiliate of Mental Health America.