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May 8, 2024

House Passes Bipartisan Bills to Strengthen Rural Health Care

DENVER, CO – The House today passed two bipartisan bills to improve health care in rural Colorado. The bills, sponsored by Representative Meghan Lukens, would designate funding to train, recruit and grow Colorado’s health care work and support rural hospitals as well as promote mental health care in rural communities. 

“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. “We’re taking steps to support Colorado’s rural health care workforce by driving funding toward rural hospitals and expanding mental health care support for our farmers and ranchers. I’m beyond proud to carry these bills at the Capitol because health care in every community and corner of the state matters.” 

SB24-221, cosponsored by Representative Marc Caitlin, R-Montrose, builds upon previous legislation that established the Colorado Rural Health Care Workforce Initiative to expand the number of health care professionals practicing in rural areas. SB24-221, passed the House by a vote of 57 to 6. This bill would designate additional funding for institutions of higher education to expand or establish an existing rural health care track program, as well as over $1.7 million for rural hospitals.

SB24-055, also sponsored by Representative Anthony Hartsook, R-Parker, would 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 would partner with the Colorado Department of Agriculture, health care providers, and directly with agriculture communities throughout Colorado to provide care and support. SB24-055 passed by the House by a vote of 59 to 4.

The bill would also establish a working group and centralize 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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