Policy Priorities

  • Policy Goal #1: Increase the availability of mental health services for children and adolescents

    Colorado ranks 48th in the nation for youth mental health. The state’s youth have higher rates of binge drinking than youth across the nation. Prevention and early intervention of mental health concerns ensure that children and adolescents are healthier and avoid problems in later life.

    • Mental Health Colorado developed a School Mental Health Toolkit outlining best practices for schools to support their students’ mental health and wellness. We have a plan to implement these best practices in every school district in the state by 2021.
    • We are expanding the School Mental Health Toolkit to identify best practices to help students and families reduce their risk of developing substance use disorders.
    • We are finalizing an Early Childhood Mental Health Toolkit that includes strategies to promote healthy social emotional development across communities.
    • We are leading efforts to expand the use of school Medicaid so schools can provide mental health services.
    • We are advocating to streamline credentialing for school psychologists.
    • We are working to increase funding for school mental health professionals.

  • Policy Goal #2: Reduce the suicide rate in Colorado

    Colorado ranks among the top ten states in its rate of suicide. Suicide is the leading cause of death for Coloradans ages 10-24, and one in 15 students have attempted suicide in the past 12 months.

    • Mental Health Colorado is leading the fight for extreme risk protection orders, also known as “red flag laws,” that allow law enforcement to temporarily remove weapons from individuals at significant risk to themselves or others. Red flag laws save lives while protecting due process rights.
    • We are advancing legislation for a program that provides follow-up care to individuals after a suicide attempt or overdose.
    • We are leading efforts to further fund zero suicide programs.
    • We are ensuring suicide prevention and mental health promotion strategies are used in every school in the state.

  • Policy Goal #3: Enforce and strengthen laws requiring insurance companies to provide equal coverage for mental and physical care

    State and federal laws require insurance plans to provide coverage for mental health and substance use treatment that is equal to the coverage provided for a physical illness. Yet private and public insurance companies often deny coverage for needed mental health or substance use treatment.

    • Mental Health Colorado is persuading the legislature to strengthen laws requiring insurance companies to provide care and coverage for mental health and substance use disorders.
    • We are working with legislators to enforce requirements that insurance companies have enough mental health and substance use professionals to guarantee their members have a choice of provider.
    • We are promoting regulatory changes to require insurance companies to provide evidence of compliance with existing laws.

  • Policy Goal #4: Expand mental health and substance use treatment capacity

    Colorado does not have adequate mental health and substance use service capacity for everyone who needs care. This leads to long wait times or people going out of network or out of state for care. Expanding capacity would enable Colorado to provide the right level of treatment, at the right time, to anyone in need of care.

    • Mental Health Colorado is championing legislation that will provide state funds to expand the capacity for treatment of substance use in underserved areas of the state.
    • We produced a plan to track availability of mental health and substance use services for Coloradans in crisis.
    • We are spearheading legislation that funds care coordinators to help people find and access substance use treatment.
    • We are developing a website to help individuals and their families determine the types of treatment available, locate a provider, and understand their insurance coverage rights.

  • Policy Goal #5: Ensure people with severe mental illness and substance use disorders receive additional support

    People with the most severe mental health and substance use disorders often need extra help finding and remaining in care; This includes help with housing, jobs, and transportation. Many people with a severe mental illness or substance use disorder have a high risk of ending up in jail or prison if they do not receive the right services.

    • Mental Health Colorado is promoting state contracting changes that improve the crisis response system so children and people experiencing substance use disorders, mental illness, or homelessness have access to services.
    • We are crafting solutions to make sure people with mental health or substance use disorders aren’t put in jails or prisons because of their disorder, and individuals have access to adequate treatment while they are in jail and as they transition back to the community.
    • We are advancing legislation to ensure people can create advance psychiatric directives that instruct treatment providers about how the individual should be treated in a mental health crisis that impairs their ability to make decisions for themselves.
    • We are proposing legislation that expands the availability of housing for individuals who are homeless and have substance use or mental health disorders.

  • Policy Goal #6: Ensure women receive mental health and substance use services during and after pregnancy

    For many women who struggle with a mental health or substance use disorder, pregnancy creates an opportunity for treatment and recovery. For women who are severely depressed or addicted, shame and fear may create barriers to seeking help.

    • Mental Health Colorado is crafting policy proposals that require health care providers to identify mental health and substance use disorders and provide follow-up care for women who are pregnant and parenting.
    • We are advocating for changes to laws and regulations to ensure women maintain their Medicaid coverage during the year after their pregnancy so women can provide a healthy environment for their family.
    • We are urging state officials to increase funding for residential and intensive outpatient programs for women with mental health and substance use disorders and their children.
    • We are advocating for coverage for regular maternal mental health and substance use screening.