Support House Bill 1278

to Ensure Responsibility, Accountability, Competition and Choice in Colorado’s Mental Health System

Send a letter to your lawmaker in support of HB-1278

Colorado’s mental health system has not been meeting the needs of our most vulnerable residents, neighbors, and family members for a long time. Although we have seen some recent improvements, too many children and adults with mental health and substance use conditions struggle without a comprehensive safety net to catch them when they’re in crisis.  

County child welfare systems are stretched to their breaking point. Colorado families are forced to seek treatment out of state for their children at tremendous cost, if they can afford it at all, or even to relinquish parental custody in order to get their kids the care they need.

Parents of adult children with serious mental illness are overwhelmed by having to act as full-time caregivers, pleading for help from an overly complex and often inhumane system. Every day the toll of the substance abuse epidemic on our communities gets worse – and the body count continues to rise. The epidemic of homelessness has not been systematically addressed and is evident on main streets and in parks and highway underpasses throughout the state. 

Meanwhile, our first responders and criminal justice system continue, by default, to serve as poor substitutes for a comprehensive adult mental health safety net – compounding people’s mental health problems with legal problems. Our jails and prisons are crowded with Coloradans whose health needs have long gone unmet. We can no longer rely on the criminal justice system as our first line of care. Suicide is the leading cause of death for young people in Colorado, and we rank among the top five states in the country for adult suicide. Colorado also has the tragic distinction of ranking as one of the states with highest prevalence of mental illness.  And we have the worst access to care in the nation for adults.

This is all happening on our watch. Colorado is hurting. As a state, as communities, as families, and as individuals, our behavioral health challenges are posing serious risks not just to our well-being, but also to our safety, our economy, and our long-term success. Colorado can no longer defer to an antiquated and tattered system that lacks transparency and accountability and lets too many people in crisis slip through the cracks. We have built our system of care for mental health on a weak foundation. The weight from these COVID years has pushed this weak foundation well past the breaking point. 

The good news is there is hope and there are resources available through the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) to help us better address mental health needs in our state at a time of unprecedented crisis. We need to build an effective new system and enact meaningful reforms to ensure that all Coloradans with mental health or substance use conditions – especially those with the hardest cases and the most vulnerable – have access to timely and high-quality care. 

In 2019, the State launched the Behavioral Health Task Force, which was responsible for tackling these issues head on, resulting in landmark legislation that is now being considered by state lawmakers.

Join us as we advocate for a vastly improved mental health care system built on a foundation of RESPONSIBILITY, ACCOUNTABILITY, COMPETITION, and CHOICE.


    We need a people-focused safety net system that serves all Coloradans – including our most vulnerable and hardest to serve. Such a system will serve the family with private insurance that is forced to apply for yet another credit card to pay for their child’s treatment. It will serve our LGBTQ+ community and BIPOC community with providers who are culturally competent, who speak the same language and look like the clients they treat. It will catch and serve veterans, parents with postpartum depression, Coloradans suffering from substance abuse, teens experiencing feelings of hopelessness and suicidal thoughts and more — allowing none to fall through the cracks.

    The system of care must prioritize the most vulnerable and hardest to serve Coloradans, who without access to quality care and sustained support, all too often end up homeless, incarcerated, or dead. This must be the cornerstone on which we found an effective system of care. If we cannot catch the sickest among us while they are freefalling, we are failing. We need to have a network of committed, high quality providers with the mandate and responsibility to serve as this population’s safety net.


    Our safety net system must be accountable to the health outcomes of the people it’s designed to serve. State officials must be responsible for ensuring adequate services are accessible in every community in the state. We must establish the minimum standards every provider must meet in order to be licensed and designated as a safety net provider.

    We must also establish standard performance indicators for measuring population health outcomes. The functionality of the safety net must be measured in terms of reductions in: crisis calls, crisis response, emergency department visits, discharges without continuity of care planning, hospital re-admissions within sixty days of discharge, overdose deaths, suicide deaths, arrests, jail populations, and lengthy persistence in homelessness. Providers that fail to meet the needs of the community they serve must be sanctioned, or lose their designation. 

    True accountability also means transparent use of public funding to incentivize strong performance. Entities responsible for disbursing taxpayer funds to support population health must be held to strict standards, eliminating any conflicts of interest. These entities must contract with safety net providers in a way that ensures fair and reasonable rates that will drive quality outcomes for people and communities.  


    We need a people-focused system that is made up of high-quality safety net providers, in every part of the state, corresponding to the diversity of the people and their needs, and we need to enact policies and laws that incentivize these providers. We need more than a few dozen providers with limited scopes of practice, allowing consumers to make choices that meet their needs. Having a single provider entity in a community isn’t good enough. Coloradans need to be able to choose from an array of providers offering diverse paths to well-being. We need to ensure that people have a choice: to see who they want, when they want – and we do that by incentivizing more providers to participate in the safety net system.

Overview of House Bill 1278: The Behavioral Health Administration

We must build a behavioral health safety net that is RESPONSIBLE for the health outcomes of the communities it serves. The safety net must be RESPONSIBLE for treating the sickest and most vulnerable Coloradans as its core mission. 

We need to keep our safety net system ACCOUNTABLE to the communities it is meant to serve. The state and entities responsible for disbursing taxpayer funds need to promote choice and provide quality outcomes in a transparent and equitable way. The system must have the ability to reward providers for quality services while also holding providers ACCOUNTABLE for bad outcomes. Our wellness as a state depends upon providers that meet their promises.

Finally, we can no longer expect a few providers to meet this responsibility, we need to open the safety net to many different providers across the continuum of care to promote quality, COMPETITION, and CHOICE in communities throughout Colorado. It must be able to serve everyone in a culturally competent way that is accessible and timely.

House Bill 1278 will help us build a new, strong foundation built on RESPONSIBILITY, ACCOUNTABILITY, COMPETITION, and CHOICE.

Send a letter to your lawmaker in support of HB-1278