Legislation would increase the availability of mental health consultants
DENVER, CO — Representatives Julie McCluskie and Emily Sirota’s bill to improve statewide mental health services for children through age eight today advanced from the House Committee on Public Health Care and Human Services. The legislation passed 8-4.
HB 20-1006 would create a statewide voluntary program of early childhood mental health consultants to increase the number of qualified consultants and improve access to these critical services. Mental health consultants are mental health professionals with experience working with young children and their families in a diversity of early childhood settings.
“It’s no secret that Coloradans, especially in rural areas, don’t always have access to the quality mental health care they need,” said Rep. McCluskie (D-Dillion). “We want to invest in the health of future generations by making early childhood mental health services more available and convenient for parents and expectant parents to access, and that’s what this bill would do.”
“As a social worker I have seen firsthand the need for mental health care across Colorado,” said Rep. Sirota (D-Denver). “This bill would greatly improve services for children and their families, improving the health and wellbeing of young children across our state. As a mother of two young children, I understand the importance of these critical services.”
The Early Childhood Mental Health Consultants bill would address the need for additional, trained mental health consultants focused on infants’ and young childrens’ mental health across the state. It would also create a standardized model for the program in consultation with key Colorado local community-based stakeholders and the National Center of Excellence for Infant and Early Childhood Mental Health.
Under the bill, early childhood mental health specialists would be available for on-site consultations at preschool and elementary schools, in public health and health care settings and other culturally and regionally appropriate early childhood settings. The visits would include support and appropriate methods for caregivers to implement tested, practical mental health care strategies for long-term success. As a part of the program, the standardized model would include job qualifications and expectations of mental health consultants, expected outcomes of the program and appropriate ratios of consultants for the communities that they support.
The program will support the ongoing professional development of mental health specialists in the state to increase access to these critical services. Professional development plans for consultants and a certification process will ensure that mental health consultants are appropriately trained as well as well versed in the expectations of the program.