(April 19) – A bill that will create a review committee to look at civil commitment statutes passed the House today by a vote of 52 to 10. This is part of the governor’s plan to redesign and strengthen Colorado’s mental health services and support system.

During 2011, 28,700 people were placed on an emergency mental health hold or were certified for commitment. Involuntary commitments are meant to be used as a last resort when less restrictive alternatives are unavailable. Currently, Colorado is the only state with three different statutory processes—one for mental illnesses, one for alcohol-related crises and one for substance abuse-related crises. This creates confusion for individuals being involuntarily committed, their families and providers of mental health services.

“Improving our mental health system is a public safety issue,” said Rep. Tracy Kraft-Tharp (D-Arvada). “By improving our mental health laws and system, we will help people who are experiencing mental health crises get the help they need.”

HB13-1296, sponsored by Reps. Beth McCann (D-Denver) and Kraft-Tharp, creates the Civil Commitment Statute Review Committee in the Department of Human Services to meet during the 2013 legislative interim. The task force is required to study and prepare recommendations concerning the consolidation of mental health, alcohol and substance abuse disorder statutes concerning civil commitments. The task force is required to report its recommendations to the executive director of the DHS and the legislature by Nov. 1, 2013.

“Our laws are confusing, so this task force will consider how to make our mental health system more efficient and provide better outcomes for Coloradans facing civil commitments and their families,” Rep. McCann said.

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