Gov. Polis, State Legislators, Community Members & Cabinet Members Discuss Transformative Behavioral Health Legislation, Visit Innovative Community Health Clinic

Thursday, April 7, 2022

DENVER — Today, Colorado Governor Jared Polis joined Rep. Serena Gonzales-Guiterrez, Senator Chris Kolker, Rep. Perry Will, Senator Faith Winter, Rep. Judy Amabile, cabinet members, and community leaders to discuss comprehensive legislation to elevate Colorado’s behavioral health system and address Colorado’s most pressing needs made possible by historic funding from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA). Governor Polis and the group then visited the Tepeyac Community Health Center in Denver and participated in a roundtable discussion about Colorado’s successful and continued integration of physical and behavioral health care to support efficient, streamlined health care services for Coloradans.

“We are saving Coloradans money on behavioral health care and improving access to quality services to ensure every Coloradan can thrive,” said Governor Polis. “I was proud to visit the innovative Tepeyac Community Health Center and see firsthand the transformative impact of our investment in providing high-quality, accessible, and affordable care that Coloradans deserve.”

A bipartisan bill sponsored by Representatives Gonzales-Gutierrez and Naquetta Ricks (Community Behavioral Health Continuum of Care Gap Grants: HB22-1281) will ensure Coloradans across the state — including children, youth and families — have access to the behavioral health care they need. This bill will invest $90 million in grant funds for local governments and nonprofit organizations to implement innovative, community-based programs with the goal of filling regional gaps across the continuum of care and transforming behavioral health outcomes for families, children and youth living in Colorado. The bill passed the House Public and Behavioral Health Committee unanimously earlier this week.

“This year, we are making the single largest investment in our state’s history, nearly $450 million, to expand access to behavioral health care,” said Rep. Serena Gonzales-Gutierrez, D-Denver. “The Tepeyac Community Health Center in Denver shows first hand how our transformational investments will allow more Coloradans to access the care they need to thrive. Our package of behavioral health legislation, crafted over the course of many months with experts across the state, will boost access to care, substance use disorder treatment, residential and outpatient services, and save Coloradans money on behavioral health care.”

“As someone who has experienced mental health challenges myself, I know how difficult it can be to seek out treatment and get the care you need,” said Senator Chris Kolker (D-Centennial), member of the Behavioral Health Transformational Task Force. “I was lucky because I was able to get help, but too many Coloradans can’t say the same. I’m proud to be working to help more people with mental health conditions and substance use disorders get the care they need and deserve. We have a lot more work to do, but this package of transformational bills represents an important first step toward expanding access to critical care, ending the stigma around behavioral health, and saving more lives.” 

Senator Kolker is the sponsor of the bipartisan and Senate passed Behavioral Health Services for Children: SB22-147 which is also sponsored by Senator Jerry Sonnenberg and Representatives. Mary Young and Rod Pelton. The bill aims to improve access to behavioral health care services for youth and families. The bill directs $4.6 million for the Colorado Pediatric Psychiatry Consultation and Access Program, $5 million for the Behavioral Health Care Professional Matching Grant Program, and $1.5 million for the School-based Health Center Grant Program.

Additional Behavioral Health Legislation moving through the legislature: 

Youth and Family Residential Care: HB22-1283 sponsored by Representative Dafna Michaelson Jenet and Mary Bradfield and Senators Janet Buckner and Kevin Priola, will make it easier for families and youth to access residential and outpatient care in Colorado. This bill will invest $54M to support intensive youth and family residential and outpatient care, ensuring that children, youth, and families can access behavioral health treatment and services they need right here in Colorado. The bill passed the House Public and Behavioral Health & Human Services Committee unanimously.

Adult Inpatient and Residential Care: HB22-1303, sponsored by Representatives Judy Amabile and Shane Sandridge and Senators Faith Winter and Jim Smallwood, invests $65 million to expand inpatient and residential treatment options for individuals with serious mental illness or substance use disorders, including individuals with co-occuring conditions or in need of civil commitment. The bill supports the addition of 16 beds at the Colorado Mental Health Institute at Fort Logan and 125 residential treatment beds across the state. HB22-1303 passed the House Public and Behavioral Health & Human Services Committee by a vote of 9 to 1.

Integrating Primary Care and Behavioral Health Care: HB22-1302, sponsored by Representatives Chris Kennedy and Perry Will and Senators Sonya Jaquez Lewis and Kevin Priola, invests $35 million to improve behavioral health outcomes by better integrating physical and behavioral health care. The bill will provide grants to primary care practices to integrate behavioral health care into their clinical models, helping Coloradans access whole person care and early behavioral health interventions before a crisis. The transformational investment will increase access to mental health and substance use disorder screening and treatment and help coordinate referrals to other levels of care. HB22-1302 passed the House Public and Behavioral Health & Human Services Committee by a vote of 10 to 1.

Behavioral Health Care Workforce Development: SB22-181, sponsored by Senators. Jeff Bridges and Cleave Simpson and Representatives. Lisa Cutterand Tonya Van Beber , directs the Behavioral Health Administration (BHA) to invest $72 million to bolster and stabilize the state’s behavioral health care workforce, which will help more Coloradans access the critical care they need to thrive.

Investments in Statewide Care Coordination Infrastructure: SB22-177, sponsored by Senators Brittany Pettersen and Bob Rankin and Representatives. Brianna Titone and Mary Bradfield , invests $12.2 million to improve Colorado’s statewide care coordination infrastructure to better serve Coloradans seeking behavioral health care. The bill also seeks to cut red tape associated with provider enrollment and credentialing for navigators and care coordination providers, so they can spend less time on paperwork and more time helping Coloradans in need.

Behavioral Health Care for Colorado Native American Tribes: SB22-148, which has passed the Senate and is sponsored by Senator Kerry Donovan and Representative Barbara McLachlan , provides $5 million to Colorado land-based Tribes to support building or renovating a tribal behavioral health facility for inpatient services and transitional housing.

The package of legislation is based on the Behavioral Health Transformational Task Force recommendations to increase access to affordable care, bolster the behavioral health care workforce, expand residential care for youth and families, and increase support for pediatricians and school counseling programs.

The Polis Administration continues to take bold steps to increase access to affordable, high-quality behavioral health care across Colorado, and to create an efficient behavioral health care system that Coloradans deserve.