Mental Health Colorado Legislation

The Colorado General Assembly voted 98-0 in favor of House Bill 1044, which allows people to create an advance directive to specify treatment preferences in the event of a mental health crisis.  These orders can empower a trusted agent to make decisions on behalf of an individual who lacks decisional capacity due to a psychiatric crisis.

Before House Bill 1044, there was no statutory provision for psychiatric advance directives for Coloradans who wish to have a document legally recognized and complied with by medical personnel. According to the Office of Behavioral Health, there were 35,000 involuntary holds in 2017. Confusion about medications or health history (psychiatric and physical) of the individual was common, resulting in errors or an individual staying in the hospital longer than might have been necessary.

Mental Health Colorado Brain Waver Evan Silverman testified in favor of the bill. He experienced difficulty getting records transferred when his doctor was on vacation. Evan spent an extremely traumatic 13 days in isolation and believes a psychiatric advance directive would have prevented it.

Mental Health Colorado believes psychiatric advance directives could be the answer. The ability to document preferred methods of treatment in a binding legal form could be lifesaving. Twenty-five other states have similar laws in place.

Pregnancy and motherhood can be an increased time of motivation for substance use disorder treatment, but significant barriers prevent women from getting the care they need. There are few intensive treatment options available that allow children to remain in their mother’s care; however, 35 percent of Colorado women who seek treatment have a child. Accidental drug overdose is one of the leading causes of maternal death in Colorado, and a woman’s risk for overdose is highest at 7-12 months postpartum.

HB 1193 increases services for high-risk pregnant and parenting women and increases ease of access to such services by:

  • Increasing early identification and referrals to services for women up to one year postpartum.
  • Giving the Colorado Department of Health Care Policy and Financing authority to pursue the necessary federal waivers to serve postpartum women.
  • Creating the High-Risk Families Fund using reverted funds so the state can increase the number of providers that serve families, including children and youth, with behavioral health disorders.
  • Piloting two innovative two-generation approaches to increasing access to child care for women seeking substance use disorder treatment.
  • Extending criminal protection of conversations between women and their health care providers regarding substance use during pregnancy.

Nearly 70% of Colorado’s 178 school districts do not meet national ratio recommendations for mental health or health professionals, and approximately a million of Colorado’s students are underserved.

The School Health Professionals Grant Program was created in 2014 and provides time-limited funding to schools to increase the presence of school health professionals and support the behavioral health needs of students. School health professionals facilitate prevention education, screening for early identification, and referral care coordination for students with substance use and other behavioral health needs.

Senate Bill 19-010 strengthens the School Health Professionals Grant Program by:

  • Clarifying the definition of behavioral health to include mental health
  • Allowing schools to use the funding for telehealth technology so students can have direct services by a school health professional
  • Allowing schools to use the funding to contract with a community partner for behavioral health services
  • Allowing, but not requiring, professionals hired through this grant program to provide therapy to students
  • Changing the criteria by which schools are prioritized for grants, by including:
    • Suicide attempts, deaths by suicide, prevalence of adverse childhood experiences, and bullying
    • Student drug or alcohol use
    • The school’s access to a behavioral health care provider
    • The prioritization of grant funding for staff training related to behavioral health

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If mental health matters to you, it ought to matter to your elected officials, too. Let them know why: find out who represents you in the Colorado House of Representatives and the Colorado Senate.

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