DENVER, CO – The House today passed two bills on a preliminary vote to boost school safety and improve student access to behavioral health services.
“Improving school safety and expanding access to behavioral health services are important for preparing our students for success,” said Rep. Tony Exum, D-Colorado Springs, sponsor of HB22-1243. “Our bipartisan legislation provides public schools with the funding they need to protect school grounds and build safer school environments for students, teachers and staff. In addition, this bill extends the I Matter program, which provides free mental health counseling sessions to Colorado’s youth.”
“In order to make our schools safer, we need to continue investing in our student’s behavioral health,” said Rep. Dafna Michaelson Jenet (D-Commerce City), former chair of the 2019 School Safety Interim Committee. “By extending the highly successful I Matter program we started last year, we can reach more youth across Colorado and provide them with free, professional counseling sessions. Taking steps to improve your behavioral health is tough, and I’m extremely proud of the hundreds of young people across 48 different counties who have already taken advantage of the I Matter program.”
HB22-1243, sponsored by Representatives Tony Exum and Kevin Van Winkle, would invest $14 million toward improving the security and safety of public schools and is part of Colorado Democrats’ Public Safety Package. Based on recommendations of the Behavioral Health Transformational Task Force, it puts $2 million in federal funding toward the behavioral health care professional matching grant program and $6 million towards extending the popular I Matter program beyond its scheduled repeal in June 2022. This investment will pave the way to serve youth with free counseling sessions for another two years.
The bill also allocates $6 million to the School Security Disbursement Program over two years, which will be reauthorized by HB22-1120.
HB22-1120, sponsored by Representatives Kevin Van Winkle and Patrick Neville, would reauthorize and make updates to the School Security Disbursement Program, which provides grants for schools to install monitoring equipment and security systems at school entrances and exits. Grants can also be used for school emergency response training and student threat assessment training for all school staff.