Legislation will invest $16 million of federal pandemic relief funds toward improving youth behavioral health outcomes and access to healthy food
DENVER, CO – The House passed two bills today that will improve behavioral health access for Colorado youth and make healthier food more accessible to vulnerable communities. These bills will invest $16 million of federal pandemic relief funds to build a healthier Colorado.
“By making smart investments, we can increase access to food and critical services and save people and small businesses money,” said Rep. Serena Gonzales-Gutierrez, D-Denver, sponsor of HB22-1380. “This legislation will foster new markets for Colorado agriculture, support small food retailers, and reduce the cost of food for Coloradans. We’re also improving how we deliver food benefits and other critical services to low-income Coloradans who were hit the hardest by the pandemic to help save them money on critical necessities.”
“We’re investing once-in-a-generation funding to improve behavioral health outcomes for our kids six-years-old and younger,” said Rep. Emily Sirota, D-Denver, sponsor of HB22-1369. “Research shows stressful and traumatic conditions can have negative effects on our youngest kids. This is why we’re investing $2 million toward the creation of early intervention and home-based prevention programs tailored towards children and their families experiencing chronic stress or trauma.”
Reducing the Cost of Food and Boosting Access to Critical Services: HB22-1380, sponsored by Representatives Serena Gonzales-Gutierrez and Rod Pelton passed by a vote of 45 to 18 and would direct $14 million in federal pandemic relief funds to save people money on healthy food and increase critical services for low-income individuals. This bill invests $8 million to create the Community Food Access Program to support small food retailers and small farmers to ensure underserved communities have access to healthy, fresh foods through a consortium and grant program. The program supports small food retailers and grocery stores with technical assistance, and one-time grants of up to $25,000 to strengthen Colorado’s food value chain.
The bill also directs $2 million in federal relief funds to efficiently identify SNAP recipients who are also eligible for utility bill assistance, $3 million for a universal high-quality work management system to reduce administrative costs and streamline the application process for various benefit programs; and $1 million to support technology upgrades and integrate the Double Up Food Bucks Program in local food retails stores increasing the access to healthy foods for SNAP recipients
Children’s Mental Health Programs: HB22-1369, sponsored by Representatives Emily Sirota and Rod Pelton, passed by a vote of 52 to 11. This bill would invest $2 million in pandemic relief funding to provide evidence-based behavioral health programs for children six years old and younger experiencing chronic stress or trauma at home. This bill invests in a home-based prevention and early intervention mental health program for children and their families to address the psychological damage caused by chronically stressful experiences.