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Children’s Mental Health in the 2023 Legislative Session

Written by PCMH’s policy director Alli Daley.

Colorado’s 74th General Assembly has officially kicked off. Already, there are several bills and budget items being debated that could impact children and youth mental health. As the rates of mental illness among Colorado youth continue to skyrocket, we’re eager to see lawmakers take action in order to expand access to and quality of care. 

Mental health bills to know

Following are the key bills we’re watching. Notably, several of these are youth initiated, led by the Colorado Youth Advisory Council (COYAC), which advises the state legislature on issues most relevant to youth. This year, access to mental health care is a top priority.

  • House Bill 23-1003 allows public schools to opt-in and provide a voluntary, standardized mental health assessment to students. Students in need of follow-up will be referred to Colorado Crisis Services or the I Matter program, as appropriate, to ensure timely access to care. This mental health assessment can help identify mental health conditions early and connect children and youth to resources before the need becomes more severe. 
  • House Bill 23-1007 requires public and private institutes of higher education to provide Colorado and national crisis and suicide prevention contact information on student ID cards. If a school does not provide ID cards, the school is required to distribute contact information to students each semester/trimester. This bill increases knowledge of and access to crisis services to ensure that all students have access to the information they need when they face a mental health crisis.
  • House Bill 23-1009 creates a committee of students, teachers, school mental health professionals, and parents to study and determine best practices for students who need substance use intervention, referral, and treatment. This report will be publicized and sent to secondary schools to encourage the adoption of these best practices and provide additional access to care for youth.
  • SB23-014 establishes the Office of Disordered Eating Prevention to maintain a resource bank for research, best practices, and educational resources. The bill also creates the Disordered Eating Prevention Research grant program to provide financial support for research. These efforts can help prevent disordered eating and ensure that individuals get the evidence-based treatment they need.

Mental health budget items

Last year’s legislative session was marked by once-in-a-lifetime investments in Colorado’s mental health system due to COVID-19 relief funds from the American Rescue Plan Act. This session, the State’s budget is much more limited, but we still anticipate significant action to address the youth mental health crisis in Colorado. 

Here are a few mental health related budget items we’re tracking so far this year:

  • HCPF R-10 allocates $3.9M to enhance critical services for children and youth insured by Colorado Medicaid who have complex and co-occurring mental health needs. The funding will create a multi-disciplinary team to focus on benefit navigation, clinical care coordination and expand access to respite services for children and youth. 
  • BHA R-02 provides $5.5M to increase the capacity of the Children and Youth Mental Health Treatment Act (CYMHTA) program, which provides mental health treatment services and care management to children and youth who are at risk of entering the child welfare system solely due to their mental health needs.
  • CDEC R-06 provides funding to support the continued operation of the Early Childhood Mental Health Support Line. This support line serves as a centralized referral point for the Early Childhood Mental Health Consultation program, and it is utilized by families, early care and education professionals, and other caregivers.

The session has just begun, and we know there are many other bills to come that will support youth mental health. To keep up with these bills and other current legislative work, check out our Bills to Know page. If you would like to get involved in these efforts or have any questions, please email me:

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