House Approves Pair of Bills to Improve Mental Health

More than one million Coloradans experience mental health or a substance use crisis each year

(Apr. 17) – The House approved two pieces of legislation that would increase access to mental health services for high-risk families and Coloradans.

Rep. Lisa Cutter and Rep. Tom Sullivan’s bill will modernize behavioral health insurance coverage laws to align with federal law and close loopholes to increase access to mental health services for Coloradans.  

“Kids as young as nine and ten are attempting suicide in Colorado. This issue isn’t going away until we address it,” said Rep. Cutter, D-Evergreen. “Over one million Coloradans deal with a mental health issue, and over half of them aren’t getting the help they need. If we include regular mental health services into normal insurance coverage, then maybe we can work on tackling the high suicide rate in this state.”

HB19-1269 strengthens prevention and screening laws to shift the current system away from expensive, late-stage treatment to early prevention; enforces and makes transparent existing state and federal parity laws; increases consumer protections; and eliminates gaps and loopholes in current law to ensure no more Coloradans fall victim to them.

“Access to mental health isn’t an issue we can keep putting off and waiting on. We are frequently hearing stories of children and families dying by suicide which leaves many all over the state mourning over the loss of their loved ones,” said Rep. Sullivan, D-Centennial. “It’s time we take action and make it easier for people to access the mental health services they need.”

Currently, state and federal laws require insurance carriers to provide equal coverage for mental health and physical care. However, many families are being denied coverage or are paying out-of-pocket costs for weeks or months for mental health care services because of loopholes in current law.

HB19-1269 was approved with a bipartisan vote of 48-15. It was unanimously approved by the House Public Health Care and Human Services committee. It now heads to the Senate.

The House also unanimously passed a bipartisan bill, HB19-1193, sponsored by Rep. Leslie Herod, D-Denver, that would provide behavioral health support for high-risk families.

“We need to stop criminalizing people who are just trying to get help,” said Rep. Herod. “This bill will give families the support they need to break their addictions, get healthy and get back on the right track.”

HB19-1193 expands existing programs that provide access to substance use disorder treatment to pregnant and parenting women. This bill creates a child care pilot program for parenting women engaged in substance use disorder treatment.

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