We’re Halfway There: 2022 Legislative Session
Written by PCMH’s policy director Alli Daley.
Colorado’s legislative session is constitutionally limited to 120 days. Just a few days ago, the Colorado General Assembly reached the halfway point. Currently, there are dozens of bills and budget items being debated that impact children and youth mental health — here are some of the most important:
- House Bill 22-1278 establishes the Behavioral Health Administration (BHA). The BHA will serve as the single state agency to lead, promote and administer Colorado’s state-funded behavioral health programs. If implemented well, the BHA will provide accountability and transparency to the behavioral health system and ensure that all Coloradans, including children and youth, have access to high quality, coordinated, and effective services.
- House Bill 22-1214 strengthens Colorado’s crisis system by ensuring that crisis facilities, including the mobile crisis program, respite services, walk-in centers, acute treatment units, and crisis stabilization units, provide services to all Coloradans, regardless of age or the presence of a disability. No child or youth should be denied services while they are in crisis because of their age or because they require assistance with their activities of daily living. This bill provides much needed clarity to ensure that never happens.
- House Bill 22-1243 provides additional funding to extend Colorado’s I Matter program. This program provides up to 6 free virtual counseling sessions for children and youth and expands access to incredibly needed services, regardless of insurance status. The bill also expands access to behavioral health professionals in schools to ensure that kids get the services they need wherever they are.
Additionally, this is an incredibly unique year because Colorado has received billions of dollars in one-time funding from the federal government’s COVID-19 relief package, the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA). Governor Jared Polis committed to spending $450 million of this funding to address the behavioral health needs of Coloradans, and we’ve worked hard to ensure children and youth get their fair share of these once-in-a-lifetime funds. The package of bills related to this funding includes:
- House Bill 22-1281 provides $90 million for community grants to close gaps across the continuum of care. $45 million of this funding is specifically allocated to addressing the needs of children, youth, and families.
- House Bill 22-1283 provides $54 million to support children and youth with higher acuity behavioral health needs by expanding respite services, supporting residential treatment centers in providing high-quality services, and building a new, state-run residential treatment facility to serve youth with neuro-psychiatric needs.
- Senate Bill 22-147 allocates $11.1 million to increase access to integrated behavioral and physical health services for children and youth. The bill supports school-based health centers and increasing access to behavioral health professionals in schools and also provides funding for a pediatric mental health consultation program. This program helps primary care providers treat children and youth with behavioral health needs.
So much work has been accomplished, yet there remains much to do. This legislative session has the potential to be one of the most important and transformational sessions for the state’s mental health system.
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: firstname.lastname@example.org.