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That’s a Wrap: 2023 Legislative Review

Written by PCMH’s policy director Alli Daley.

On May 8, 2023, Colorado’s Regular Session of the 74th General Assembly came to an end. Throughout the session, mental health remained a crucial topic of debate. Ultimately, legislators passed dozens of bills on youth mental health that will bring new services and supports to Coloradans in the coming months. 

Following is a brief overview of the noteworthy bills that passed this year.

Equitable access to mental health treatment

The legislature continued to work to ensure all of Colorado’s children and youth have equitable access to treatment in the right place, at the right time. 

  • Senate Bill 174 increases access to mental health services for children under age 21 who are insured by Medicaid without the requirement for a mental health diagnosis. This expands access to integrated care and provides care to children and youth in need who may otherwise have barriers to access.
  • House Bill 1269 helps support existing services for children and youth with complex mental health needs while setting up processes to create long-term, sustainable supports across the care continuum. The state budget also includes programs to support access to care. 
  • HCPF R-10 provides $3.9M in ongoing funding to enhance critical services for children and youth with complex and co-occurring needs. The funding will create a multi-disciplinary team to focus on benefit navigation and clinical care coordination and expand access to respite services for these children and youth. 
  • BHA R-02 provides $5.5M in ongoing funding to increase the capacity of the Children and Youth Mental Health Treatment Act (CYMHTA). CYMHTA 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. 

Supporting individuals with eating disorders

During the COVID-19 pandemic, Colorado and the nation witnessed an increase in the number of individuals with eating disorders. Two proposals this year were aimed at addressing current challenges for young people. 

  • Senate Bill 14 establishes a disordered eating prevention program within the Colorado Department of Public Health & Environment to maintain resources for the public regarding risk and prevention factors of disordered eating, with opportunities to support teachers, school staff, students and parents on prevention and treatment for children and youth. 
  • Senate Bill 176 increases access to treatment for individuals with disordered eating by prohibiting health plans and Medicaid from utilizing body mass index to determine access to treatment. The bill also prohibits retail establishments from selling over-the-counter diet pills to individuals under age 18. 

Mental health in schools

Similar to years past, the legislature focused on how they can support mental health services provided in schools. 

  • House Bill 1003 allows schools to opt-in to a universal mental health screening program to screen students for mental health needs just as schools screen students for hearing and vision. 
  • Senate Bill 4 seeks to increase access to care by authorizing schools to employ school-based therapists who are licensed solely by the Department of Regulatory Affairs rather than require an additional Department of Education license. 
  • House Bill 1007 expands on a youth-drafted and youth-supported law from 2022 to require higher education institutions, in addition to high schools, to print Colorado Crisis Services contact information on student identification cards. 
  • House Bill 1009 creates a committee in the Department of Education to develop a model or identify an existing model for secondary schools to implement that will provide substance use intervention and treatment in schools. 

Throughout the legislative session, Children’s Hospital Colorado advocated for policies to elevate the resilient voices of kids, families and communities and advance policy solutions to strengthen the future of children’s health. For an overview of our efforts to increase support for mental health services where kids need it most, check out our 2023 state policy and advocacy priorities recap: Lifting Children Up.

If you would like to get involved in future advocacy efforts or have any questions, please email me:  

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