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June 6, 2024

Gov. Signs Bipartisan Bills to Support Rural Health Care

HUGO / DENVER, CO - Governor Jared Polis today signed two bipartisan bills into law to boost support for rural health care. SB24-121 will create a new licensing process for critical access hospitals and SB24-055 will boost behavioral and mental health care services for farmers and ranchers.

“Throughout my district Coloradans living in rural areas rely on critical access hospitals for life-saving care,” said Senator Dylan Roberts, D-Frisco, sponsor of SB24-121. “This important, bipartisan law saves critical access hospitals money and gives them more opportunities to obtain essential federal and state grant funding, ensuring rural communities continue to have access to the high-quality health care services they deserve.”

“Critical access hospitals are a health care lifeline for our rural and frontier communities,” said Rep. Mary Young, D-Greeley, sponsor of SB24-121. “This law updates the licensing process for critical access hospitals by eliminating expensive, duplicative fees so they can continue to serve their communities and make our lives safer, healthier and happier.” 

SB24-121, also sponsored by Senator Rod Pelton, R-Cheyenne Wells, and Representative Richard Holtorf, R-Akron, will create a new licensure process for critical access hospitals, primarily rural and remote hospitals. This new law will save critical access hospitals money, allow them to apply for federal and state grants more easily and will ensure critical access hospitals are not registered as general hospitals. 

“Colorado’s farmers, ranchers, and their families are struggling to get the behavioral health care they urgently need, and the results have been disastrous,” said Senator Janice Marchman, D-Loveland, sponsor of SB24-055. “Everyone deserves to have behavioral health care created by and for their own communities. This new law will bolster our ongoing efforts to close the rural mental health gap, and ultimately help save lives across our state.”

“Coloradans living in rural and mountain communities, like mine, deserve access to high-quality health care – including mental and behavioral health care,” said Rep. Meghan Lukens, D-Steamboat Springs, sponsor of SB24-055. “We’re taking steps to expand mental health care support for our farmers and ranchers in their communities. Mental health matters in every corner of our state, and this new law will improve access, outreach and connection for our farmers and ranchers to receive the behavioral health care they need.” 

SB24-055, also sponsored by Senator Perry Will, R-New Castle and Representative Anthony Hartsook, R-Parker, will improve access to behavioral health care in rural Colorado by creating a new Agricultural and Rural Community Behavioral Health program that would work to better connect farmers, ranchers, and their families to behavioral health care. The program will partner with the Colorado Department of Agriculture, health care providers, and directly with agriculture communities throughout Colorado to provide care and support. 

The new law also establishes a working group and centralizes existing grant programs within the Colorado Department of Agriculture to better address the root causes of behavioral health issues in rural and agricultural communities.

Farmers, ranchers and those in the agriculture industry currently rank fourth in the state for the highest suicide rate. This bill aims to connect farmers and ranchers with tailored behavioral health care resources.

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