Mental Health Advocates Introduce Bill To Support People in Recovery, Address Health Care Workforce Shortage

February 28, 2021

Article originally found in My Prime Time News

With Bipartisan Support, HB 21-1021 Seeks to Improve Peer Support Services ~

DENVER—In the past two years, the number of Coloradans who didn’t receive mental health or substance use care that they needed nearly doubled—yet, in 2019, Colorado’s behavioral health workforce only met 30% of the state’s need. Mental Health Colorado, Representative Rod Pelton (R), and Representative Yadira Caraveo (D) just introduced House Bill 21-1021 to significantly alleviate the workforce gap through peer support services.

Peer supporters are individuals in recovery from mental health or substance use conditions who help others experiencing similar situations. The problem, according to Mental Health Colorado, is that Medicaid only reimburses peer support services in a very limited range of settings, which limits the scope of peer support services in other settings such as OB/GYN clinics and emergency departments. 

“Peers are an essential component of Colorado’s health care workforce and contribute to better outcomes for people with mental health and substance use conditions,” said Mental Health Colorado President & CEO Vincent Atchity. “Their lived experience and training enable them to relate to and connect with people in powerful ways.”  

Data shows that peer support services cut hospitalizations in half, increase engagement in self-care and wellbeing, and decrease psychotic symptoms. The Georgia Department of Behavioral Health & Developmental Disabilities found that using peer support services in treatment saved an average of $5,494/person for the state. 

House Bill 21-1021, introduced on Feb. 16, 2021, would improve how peer support services are billed under Medicaid, clarify that peer support professionals can utilize telehealth in providing and billing for services, among other improvements to peer-delivered services. Efforts to pass the bill are led by Mental Health Colorado, with support from the Colorado Children’s Campaign, the Colorado Cross-Disability Coalition, the Colorado Mental Wellness Network, and the National Alliance on Mental Illness Colorado.  

About Mental Health Colorado: 
Mental Health Colorado is the state’s leading advocate for promoting mental wellness, 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.