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April 18, 2023

House Passes Bills to Improve Mental Health in Schools and Access to Prosthetics

DENVER, CO - The House today passed two bills to increase student access to mental health services in schools and support youth who use prosthetics.

“Schools are short on school mental health professionals, putting the responsibility of addressing student mental health struggles onto educators that are already overworked and underpaid,” said Rep. Dafna Michaelson Jenet, D-Commerce City, sponsor of SB23-004. Teachers, students, and parents throughout Colorado are asking for our help to support our kids. This bill expands Colorado schools’ ability to hire qualified mental health professionals so students have easier access to life-saving mental health services.”

“Schools and students are in great need of mental health services to address our youth mental health crisis,” said Rep. Mary Young, D-Greeley, a school psychologist and sponsor of SB23-004. “Our current laws require licensing through the Colorado Department of Education before a licensed mental health professional is qualified for employment in Colorado schools, despite their expertise in childhood behavioral health and the shortage of mental health providers in schools. SB23-004 will help our schools and students have the mental health services they need to combat depression, anxiety, and other mental health issues.”

Current Colorado law requires a mental health professional to be licensed by the Colorado Department of Education in order to work in a school, making it more difficult for schools to hire enough professionally-licensed therapists to address students’ mental health needs. SB23-004 allows school districts to employ mental health professionals who hold a Colorado license and have experience working with children and adolescents, but don’t have a special service provider license through the Department of Education, to be school-based therapists. This bill streamlines the hiring process and increases access to mental health resources in schools for Colorado children and youth. SB23-004 unanimously passed by a vote of 62-0.

The COVID-19 pandemic increased feelings of isolation, anxiety, and depression among youth. About 40% of Colorado middle and high school students reported feeling depressed in 2020 per the Health Kids Colorado Survey. Additionally, a 2022 study found that Colorado Children’s Hospital saw a 103% increase of patients visiting emergency departments for behavioral health concerns compared to data from 2019. This bill is crucial in reducing and preventing mental health issues for Colorado youth before they reach crisis levels.

“Colorado youth with limb loss can’t receive the prosthetics they need to enjoy biking, skiing, hiking, running and everything else Colorado’s great outdoors has to offer because they’re often not covered by their parent’s insurance,” said Rep. David Ortiz, D-Littleton, sponsor of HB23-1136. “This bipartisan legislation updates our prosthetic insurance coverage law so Coloradan’s can access the prosthetics they need to participate in their favorite sports and hobbies. This bill saves families money, improves accessibility and breaks down barriers to entering youth sports and countless other physical activities.” 

HB23-1136, sponsored by Representatives David Ortiz and Anthony Hartsook, would save Coloradans money and support youth by modifying Colorado’s current prosthetic coverage law so health insurance plans will be required to cover an additional prosthetic device necessary for physical or recreational activity. Without health plan coverage, Colorado families can incur expensive out-of-pocket costs to cover additional prosthetics because the alternative prosthetic is considered not medically necessary. 

HB23-1136 aims to ensure Coloradans living with limb loss or limb difference are able to participate in recreational activities such as youth sports, biking, rock climbing, running, skiing, snowboarding and more. The bill passed by a vote of 62-1.

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