Governor Hickenlooper signs bill to expand Colorado’s crisis system, ensure those in mental health crisis receive proper treatment

DENVER (May 18, 2017) — Today Gov. John Hickenlooper signed Senate Bill 17-207, strengthening Colorado’s crisis response system and effectively ending the use of jails as a placement option for individuals on an emergency mental health hold.

The crisis system in Colorado includes a 24-hour hotline staffed by professional counselors, a peer line, walk-in crisis centers, crisis stabilization centers and respite and mobile crisis services. This bill provides more than $7 million to the Office of Behavioral Health (OBH) in the Department of Human Services to expand the crisis system and better equip law enforcement to respond to individuals in mental health crisis.

The legislation is the product of recommendations from the Mental Health Hold Task Force, which was created at the governor’s request in 2016 to identify ways Colorado’s system could better serve individuals in a mental health crisis. The task force -- composed of a diverse set of stakeholders including law enforcement, mental health advocates, hospitals, clinicians, regulatory agencies and people with lived experience and their families -- worked with the Colorado Commission on Criminal and Juvenile Justice to create the solution presented in SB 17-207.

“Until now, people in Colorado could spend up to 72 hours in jail simply because they had a behavioral health issue and needed help,” said Nancy VanDeMark, OBH director. “Through the hard work of many people, we’re now able to expand and enhance the availability of crisis response services statewide. Coloradans in crisis will be connected with the right behavioral health services in an appropriate setting.”

Through SB 17-207, OBH will in the coming year expand the availability of mobile clinicians, use of telehealth, options for crisis stabilization in underserved communities, transportation for people in crisis, and collaboration between behavioral health clinicians and law enforcement.

The transportation program will have drivers trained to transport people in mental health crisis to a mental health center or hospital, reducing the use of law enforcement and ambulances. The bill directs $5.2 million to pair law enforcement officers with behavioral health providers to assist with individuals in behavioral health crisis, called a co-responder model.

Colorado Crisis Services is available to help with a mental health, substance use or emotional crisis, 24/7/365 by phone, text or in person. Call 1-844-493-TALK (8255), text TALK to 38255 to speak confidentially to a trained professional, or visit one of the 11 walk-in crisis centers across the state. Visit ColoradoCrisisServices.org to learn more.

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