Major Behavioral Health Bills Advance

Legislation would create the Colorado Behavioral Health Administration, expand access to peer support and transition services, and require equal access to foster care services for LGBTQ youth

DENVER, CO– The House Public and Behavioral Health and Human Services Committee today passed five bills to increase access to behavioral health and critical peer support and transition services. The committee also passed legislation to ensure LGBTQ youth have access to the full range of out-of-home placement services and programs. 

HB21-1097, sponsored by Representatives Mary Young and Rod Pelton, passed unanimously and would create the Behavioral Health Administration to ensure that every Coloradan experiencing behavioral health needs has access to timely, high-quality services in their communities that they can afford. It tasks the Department of Human Services with creating a plan for a single state entity that would be responsible for administering and overseeing behavioral health programs in Colorado.

“Our landmark legislation will create the Colorado Behavioral Health Administration to help every person in our state have access to affordable mental health and substance abuse services in their communities,” said Rep. Young, D-Greeley. “With this bill, we’re taking a major step forward to reform our behavioral health system and tackle the challenges that have prevented too many Coloradans from accessing critical mental health care.”

HB21-1072, sponsored by Representative Meg Froelich, would require an out-of-home placement provider to ensure fair and equal access to all available programs, benefits, and services offered by the provider. In addition, out-of-home placement must be provided in a way that is culturally responsive to the complex social identity of the youth. LGBTQ youth have faced barriers to access critical out-of-home placement services, with some denying services to LGBTQ youth. All Republicans on the committee voted to deny LGBTQ youth equal access to these critical services. 

“No young person in Colorado should ever be rejected from foster services because of who they are or who they love,” said Rep. Froelich, D- Englewood. “This bill would end discrimination foster youth programs and ensure that at-risk youth receive services that are appropriate and responsible to their identity.” 

HB21-1021, sponsored by Representative Yadira Caraveo, passed unanimously and would improve access to peer-support professionals by authorizing HCPF to reimburse recovery support services organizations for peer support services submitted under the state’s Medicaid program. Peer support specialists are people with lived experiences who help others experiencing similar situations improve their conditions, typically in connection to substance abuse or trauma. Peer support services provide treatment outside of a clinical setting to help people experiencing a mental health condition.

“Peer support specialists draw on their own life experiences to help people struggling with substance abuse or a mental health condition, often stemming from traumatic experience,” said Rep. Caraveo, D-Thornton, a physician. “I’m excited to see this bill move forward so that more Coloradans, especially veterans struggling with a behavioral health condition or Coloradans living with sexual trauma, can access the care they need.”

HB21-1130, sponsored by Representatives Dafna Michaelson Jenet and Mary Bradfield, passed unanimously and would allow more individuals to access the community transition specialist program and expand the type of facility that can access the program’s services. These types of programs help people with behavioral health conditions transition from a treatment setting to a community living setting.

“I’ve made access to behavioral health services one of my top priorities, and I am so happy to see all of these bills move forward today,” said Public and Behavioral Health and Human Services Committee Chair Rep. Michaelson Jenet. “Today, we took a big step forward to expand access to critical services that help Coloradans transition from treatment to community living. We also started down the long road of finally creating the Colorado Behavioral Health Administration, which will reform how mental health care is delivered in our state to improve access and affordability at a time when more Coloradans need this care.” 

HB21-1123, sponsored by Representatives Dafna Michaelson Jenet and Colin Larson, passed unanimously and would allow the disclosure of certain CAPS Checks (Colorado’s Adult Protective Services data system) in order to check for substantiated cases of adult mistreatment. 

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