DENVER, CO - The House Education Committee today unanimously advanced legislation to increase student access to mental health services in schools. The bill passed by a vote of 11-0.
“Suicide is the leading cause of death for 10 to 18-years-olds in Colorado,” said Rep. Dafna Michaelson Jenet, D-Commerce City. “We need to do everything we can to remove unnecessary barriers for Colorado students so they can access the resources they need. With this bill, schools will have greater flexibility to hire mental health professionals so we can provide essential, life-saving services to our kids.”
“As a school psychologist, I know how difficult it can be to provide comprehensive mental health services to every student that needs them,” said Rep. Mary Young, D-Greeley. “We’re making it easier for schools to hire qualified, licensed mental health professionals to improve students’ access to the mental health support person they need.”
Current Colorado law requires a mental health professional to be licensed by the Department of Education in order to work in a school, making it more difficult for schools to hire enough licensed professionals to address students’ mental health needs. SB23-004 allows school districts to employ mental health professionals who hold a Colorado license and have experience working with children and adolescents, but don’t have a special service provider license through the Department of Education, to be school-based therapists. This bill streamlines the hiring process and increases access to mental health resources in schools for Colorado children and youth.
The COVID-19 pandemic increased feelings of isolation, anxiety, and depression among youth. About 40% of Colorado middle and high school students reported feeling depressed in 2020 per the Health Kids Colorado Survey. Additionally, a 2022 study found that Colorado Children’s Hospital saw a 103% increase of patients visiting emergency departments for behavioral health concerns compared to data from 2019. This bill is crucial in reducing and preventing mental health issues for Colorado youth before they reach crisis levels.