House Approves Bills to Help with Mental Health Treatment for Coloradans Who Need It the Most

Colorado is ranked near the bottom for behavioral health care

(Apr. 30) – The House gave final approval to two bills suggested by the Behavioral Health Task Force to address the current mental health crisis facing Colorado.

SB19-222, a bipartisan bill sponsored by Rep. Daneya Esgar, D-Pueblo, expands community based services, providing a safety net of comprehensive mental health care that could cover the entire state.

“SB 222 is about implementing a vision for a system that can serve everyone, so Colorado’s jails don’t have to. When people with serious behavioral health disorders cannot access the treatment they need, other parts of our system are negatively impacted as we’ve directly seen in Pueblo,” said Rep. Esgar. “This is about helping the people in our communities who are the hardest to serve.”

Rep. Esgar’s bill requires access to civil beds at the Colorado Mental Health Institutes at Fort Logan and Pueblo. It also requires a robust collaboration with all local enforcement jurisdictions and counties in the service area.

SB19-222 passed unanimously. This bill now heads to the Governor’s desk.

SB19-223, sponsored by Rep. Mike Weissman, D-Aurora, improves the process and provision of services for individuals who have been ordered for competency evaluation and restoration in the criminal justice system.

“This bill will ensure that our criminal justice system adheres to constitutional requirements when questions of competency are raised,” said Rep. Weissman.  “We can, and we must, and with SB 223, we will, address competency evaluations and restorations more quickly and efficiently.  Together with SB 222, this bill help keep individuals with behavioral health issues from becoming entangled in our justice system.”

Rep. Weissman’s bill is the primary legislative mechanism to codify the reforms set forth by the taskforce. It includes a series of reforms to help the Colorado Department of Health Services come into compliance with a mandated timeframe for providing competency services. It also requires the Department of Human Services to implement policies to prioritize in-patient treatment for those with the greatest need while providing community-based services for other patients.

SB19-223 passed with a bipartisan vote of 59-4. Rep. Lois Landgraf is the secondary sponsor of both bills.

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