April 26, 2022

HOUSE COMMITTEE CLEARS BIPARTISAN BILLS TO IMPROVE YOUTH BEHAVIORAL HEALTH, ACCESS TO FOOD

Legislation directs more than $27 million in federal pandemic relief funds to improve outcomes for Colorado youth through behavioral health programs and healthy food access


DENVER, CO – The House Public and Behavioral Health and Human Services Committee passed three bipartisan bills to improve outcomes for Colorado’s youth and most vulnerable residents. These bills invest more than $27 million in federal pandemic relief funds to expand behavioral health programs for children and improve youth access to healthy food.

“Our neighbors have not been immune to the rising cost of groceries, which is why we are investing federal funds to make it easier for Coloradans in the most vulnerable communities to access healthy, nutritious foods,” said Rep. Serena Gonzales-Gutierrez, D-Denver, sponsor of HB22-1380. “The Community Food Access Program is the right move for better connecting low-income Coloradans with the services they need while supporting small businesses in the process.”

Reducing the Cost of Food and Boosting Access to Critical Services: HB22-1380, sponsored by Representatives Serena Gonzales-Gutierrez and Rod Pelton, 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. HB22-1380 passed committee by a unanimous vote.

“We are tackling Colorado’s youth behavioral health crisis from multiple angles,” said Rep. Mary Young, D-Greeley, sponsor of SB22-147. “During my career as a school psychologist, I experienced firsthand the behavioral health improvement possible when students and their families had access to the right services. This substantial investment of federal relief funds will expand youth access to critical behavioral health care.”

Behavioral Health Care Services for Youth and Families: SB22-147, sponsored by Representatives Mary Young and Rod Pelton, aims to improve access to behavioral health care services for youth and families by utilizing $11.1 million of federal relief funds distributed through three programs. $4.6 million will support the Colorado Pediatric Psychiatry Consultation and Access Program (CoPPCAP) which provides support and assistance to primary care providers and pediatricians to help identify and treat children with behavioral health needs. $5 million will go toward increasing the number of school health professionals who can provide behavioral health services to students, while $1.5 million will expand school-based health centers in Colorado. SB22-147 passed committee by a vote of 10-0.

“Stressful and traumatic conditions can have negative, long-term impacts on the behavioral health of our youngest kids,” said Rep. Emily Sirota, D-Denver, sponsor of HB22-1369. “We’re using federal relief dollars to invest in our youth’s behavioral health through the creation of early intervention and home-based prevention programs tailored towards children and their families experiencing chronic stress or trauma.” Children’s Mental Health Programs: HB22-1369, sponsored by Representatives Emily Sirota and Rod Pelton, 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. HB22-1369 passed committee by a vote of 10-0.