Mental Health Colorado Bill To Support People in Recovery and Address Health Care Workforce Shortage

January 17, 2020

Media Contact:
Flora Welsh

Mental Health Colorado Bill To Support People in Recovery and Address Health Care Workforce Shortage

Denver—More Coloradans need mental health or substance use services than ever, yet the workforce remains inadequate, only meeting 30% of the need. House Bill 20-1139 will enhance the role of Peer Support Professionals in the state’s health care landscape. Peer Support Professionals are an essential component of Colorado’s health care workforce and contribute to better outcomes for people with mental health and substance use conditions.

Peer support professionals are individuals with lived experience of recovery from mental health and/or substance use conditions who are uniquely skilled at helping others find recovery and wellness.

“Their lived experience and training enable them to relate to and connect with people in powerful ways,” Vincent Atchity, president and CEO of Mental Health Colorado, said.

Currently, Medicaid is restricted to reimbursing peer-delivered services in facilities such as community mental health centers or substance use treatment facilities. This limits the scope of peer-delivered services, excluding other settings such as jails and prisons, primary care clinics, and other points of access to care and support. House Bill 20-1139 would enhance the current system and improve how peer-delivered services are billed under Medicaid. It would also create a tax credit so peers can pursue a higher education.

“Without continuing education, peers may reach a professional ceiling,” Atchity said. “The tax credit gives these individuals a pathway to continued professional development and incentivizes them to pursue long-term careers in health care, thereby creating better outcomes for the mental health of our state.”

Data from other states have demonstrated that peer-delivered services cut hospitalizations in half, increased engagement in self-care and wellness, and decreased psychotic symptoms. Additional data from the Georgia Department of Behavioral Health & Developmental Disabilities found that using peer-delivered services in treatment saved an average of $5,494 per person for the state.

About Mental Health Colorado:

Mental Health Colorado is the state’s leading advocate in promoting mental wellness, ending stigma and ensuring equitable access to mental health and substance use services. Mental Health Colorado is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization and an affiliate of Mental Health America.