Dem led mental health parity and youth suicide prevention bills now law
(May 16) – Gov. Polis signed two bills today that will increase access to mental health resources.
The Gov. signed HB19-1269 sponsored by Rep. Lisa Cutter and Rep. Tom Sullivan that will modernize behavioral health insurance coverage laws to align with federal law and close loopholes to increase access to mental health services for Coloradans.
“Over one million of our friends, neighbors, and children live with a mental health issue. But over half of them aren’t receiving the help they need,” said Rep. Cutter, D-Evergreen. “It’s time we start treating mental health the same as physical health, getting people the treatment they need, and working towards removing the stigma around mental health issues.”
“I have been committed to improving mental health prior to joining the legislature and am honored to be a part of this new law,” said Rep. Sullivan, D-Centennial.“We can’t wait any longer to help improve access to mental health in our communities.”
HB19-1269 strengthens prevention and screening laws to shift the current system away from expensive late-stage treatment to early prevention and enforces and makes transparent existing state and federal parity laws and increases consumer protections.
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.
Gov. Polis also signed a bill sponsored by Rep. Dafna Michaelson Jenet and Rep. Dylan Roberts to help address youth suicide.
“A youth mental health epidemic is unfolding before our eyes and until now, the state has been unable to adequately invest in solutions. Under this new law, Colorado’s kids will be able to access the help they so desperately need. It could save a life,” said Rep. Michaelson Jenet, D-Commerce City. “The children of our state want more access to mental health resources and we are working to deliver.”
Rep. Michaelson Jenet’s son survived a suicide attempt at age 9.
The life-saving law, HB19-1120, will reduce the age at which a young person can seek confidential psychotherapy services from a licensed mental health professional without the consent of his or her parent or guardian, from 15 to 12. The bill also requires the Colorado Department of Education, in consultation with the Office of Suicide Prevention, the Youth Advisory Council, and the Suicide Prevention Commission, to create and maintain a mental health education literacy resource bank. The resource bank is available to the public free of charge.
“The suicide epidemic knows no bounds and it’s impacting every community. Eagle County had 18 suicides last year in a community of only about 50,000 people,”said Rep. Roberts, D-Avon. “This new law will help us address this epidemic and provide more young people the access to mental health services they need. This law will save lives.”
Colorado is ranked third for suicides among youth aged 10-14 and fifth for teen suicide overall.
Both laws were signed this afternoon at the Center for African American Health in Denver.