WASHINGTON, DC – Senator Chris Kolker, D-Centennial, and Representative Mary Young, D-Greeley, recently joined state legislators from across the nation for a White House virtual discussion on state-level efforts to address the mental health crisis and advance access to behavioral health care in recognition of Suicide Awareness Month.
In the meeting, Kolker and Young discussed steps Colorado is taking to address the mental health crisis, including funding for “9-8-8” services. Legislators also shared their efforts to address mental health workforce shortages, increase accessibility of in-person and telehealth services, and ensure that individuals in the criminal justice system have access to behavioral health services.
“The mental health crisis is impacting communities all across our country, and we’ve worked hard in Colorado to take steps to address it,” said Kolker, a key member of the state’s Behavioral Health Transformational Task Force. “I’m grateful to have been invited by the White House to share the progress we’ve made and have the opportunity to talk about the critical 9-8-8 law and other initiatives I’ve championed to combat this crisis. Moving forward, I will continue making it a priority to advocate for policies that will advance access to care, and help Coloradans get the treatment they need when they need it.”
"We've worked hard to address the behavioral health crisis that's affecting our kids, families and mental health professionals, and it's an honor to share our state's progress on the national stage set by the White House," said Young. "This year alone, we invested $450 million to improve behavioral health care in our communities so families and youth can access care in their community. I'm proud of the statewide work we've done to combat the behavioral health crisis and I'm ready to take our efforts one step further to reach more Coloradans in need."
During the 2021 session, Senator Kolker and Representative Lisa Cutter, D-Littleton, sponsored SB21-154, which provided funding to implement the federally mandated 9-8-8 hotline. The hotline – created through a rule adopted by the Federal Communications Commission in 2020 – provides essential resources that will help connect Coloradans facing a mental health crisis with critical mental health services.
This year, Kolker and Young championed a number of new laws to help transform Colorado’s behavioral health system using $450 million in federal pandemic relief funds. The new laws they championed will help improve access to much-needed behavioral health care services for youth and families, break down barriers that prevent people experiencing a crisis from getting support, and save mental health professionals money on renewing their licenses.