HB21-1258 Testimony: April 20, 2021

The following testimony was presented to the House Public & Behavioral Health & Human Services Committee on April 20, 2021. House Bill 21-1258, a children’s mental health bill, passed on a vote of 11-1. Read more about the bill here.

Vincent Atchity, President & CEO of Mental Health Colorado, testified in support of the bill on behalf of the organization. 

“Good afternoon, Members of the Committee. I’m Vincent Atchity, President and CEO of Mental Health Colorado. Mental Health Colorado is a non-profit organization working to achieve healthier minds across the lifespan for all Coloradans. Since 1953, we have represented consumer interests in our efforts to promote well-being, increase access to quality care and services, and end the shame and discrimination persistently associated with mental health and substance use conditions.

Mental Health Colorado fully supports House Bill 21-1258, a Rapid Mental Health Response for Colorado Youth. We know that early intervention is highly effective in promoting good health outcomes.

Many children are facing the steepest climb of their lives as we try, as a state, to come up out of this. They will not all be able to thrive with their peers who’ve experienced greater fortune if we do not act now, with all our intelligence and love, to bring every player on our team along.

Some children have done better than others during prolonged periods of remote education. Some children have had the support and encouragement of stably employed parents who were able to work from homes where a productive routine could be maintained. Some have benefited from teachers who excelled at adapting to remote learning.

But those who have managed to thrive through all of this are not enough. Just some of Colorado’s children…is not enough.

Right now is the time to focus our intelligent efforts and resources on identifying the young people who are facing the hardest challenges. We know who many of them are already. And we definitely know what they have experienced since March of 2020. While many of our children have mercifully been spared the worst of the pandemic, there are brave and heroic Colorado children whose parents became unemployed due to the economic shutdown. There are heroic Colorado children who have lost the support of family financial stability, who have lost their homes. And there are heroic Colorado children who have lost the lives of their parents and grandparents, and their aunts and uncles. The brave and heroic children of Colorado need the support of their big team as they face the challenges of the months ahead.

We Coloradans pride ourselves on our wealth and resources, on our intelligence. Colorado should not have to rank in the bottom third of the nation for mental health needs versus access to care.

Most of us have children in our lives. As we implement this, we will be able to make it known to them that we are vigilant for their well-being, that we need them to be well, and that we, as a state, are investing in them with urgency.

We are grateful to the bipartisan bill sponsors, Representatives Dafna Michaelson Jenet (D) and Kevin Van Winkle (R), and Senators Janet Buckner (D) and Rob Woodward (R) for recognizing that now is the time and for issuing this call to action. And we are grateful to the Colorado Department of Human Services Office of Behavioral Health for expediting a plan for implementing this statewide crisis intervention for Colorado’s children. And we will celebrate the brigade of professional care providers who will step into this next breach in our pandemic defense effort for the sake of our children, and dedicate the extra hours in the day it may take to ensure that we are properly safeguarding the most valuable and essential assets we have as a community of humans.

Thank you for your support of this bill and for a strong recovery for all Colorado’s children.”