Free therapy and mental health screenings for Colorado kids in the works

April 20, 2021

By: Kasia Kerridge

Originally reported on KKTV11 News

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (KKTV) – After such a difficult year, mental health advocates are working to provide free therapy and mental health screenings for Colorado children.

Lawmakers are working to pass a Colorado bill that will allocate $9 million to provide free screenings and three free mental health sessions to kids. Officials say 12-year-olds and older would be able to consent on their own to receiving treatment.

“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,” said Vincent Atchity, president and CEO of Mental Health Colorado.

Advocates for the bill don’t want payment to be a barrier for children to receive mental health services, especially if it’s not covered by their insurance. So, support would be free through Telehealth, either virtually or in person.

“We’ve got to get away from this concept of waiting for a crisis to happen to ask for help. We should always ask for help when we’re in a crisis, but you can also ask for help when you’re just struggling a little bit, or you have some concerns, or you’re not sure,” said Robert Werthwein, Office of Behavioral Health director.

Since the pandemic began, the Colorado crisis services hotline has seen a 30% increase in calls and texts of Coloradans asking for help. Children’s Hospital Colorado has seen a 10% increase in the number of kids who visited the psychiatric emergency department due to thoughts of suicide.

The bill is being discussed in the Public & Behavioral Health & Human Services committee on Tuesday. It will have to pass in both the House of Representatives and the Senate before going to the Governor’s desk for final approval.

Advocates hope to have these services up and running by next school year.