July 1, 2022

JOINT RELEASE: NEW LAWS TO BOLSTER COLORADO’S BEHAVIORAL HEALTH CARE WORKFORCE, HELP STREAMLINE VITAL SERVICES GO INTO EFFECT

Laws aim to help address the behavioral health crisis, help more Coloradans with mental health conditions and substance use disorders access treatment


DENVER, CO – Today, two laws signed by Governor Jared Polis to help transform Colorado’s behavioral health system officially went into effect.

HB22-1278, sponsored by Senator Pete Lee, D-Colorado Springs, and Representative Mary Young, D-Greeley, will help increase and streamline access to behavioral health services through the Behavioral Health Administration (BHA) for individuals with mental health conditions and substance use disorders

“Our law uplifts Colorado’s new Behavioral Health Administration, to make mental health care and substance use disorder treatment less expensive and easier to access,” said Young. “The pandemic has only exacerbated the long-standing challenges Coloradans’ have faced when trying to find the behavioral health care they need. The BHA works to streamline behavioral health care so Coloradans seeking care can find and receive high-quality treatment.”

“Coloradans deserve easy access to the behavioral health care they need to maintain their health and well-being, but far too many folks are left with limited or no options for help,” said Lee. “Accessing our behavioral health system can be complex and difficult. The Behavioral Health Administration will help streamline services for people with mental health conditions and substance use disorders. With this law, we will be able to ensure accessible, equitable and high quality care for all.”

HB22-1278 establishes a comprehensive, accountable behavioral health safety net system available in every region of Colorado. This includes over 15 different critical behavioral health services including substance use treatment, crisis services, criminal justice diversion, trauma informed care, youth services, and more. Another new law, championed by Senator Jeff Bridges, D-Greenwood Village, and Representative Lisa Cutter, D-Jefferson County, also went into effect today. SB22-181 directs the BHA to invest $72 million to bolster and stabilize the state’s behavioral health care workforce, which will help more Coloradans access the critical care they need to thrive.

“If we want to achieve our goal of transforming Colorado’s behavioral health system, then we need a robust workforce to help us do it,” said Bridges. “This new law is a significant investment that will expand our behavioral health workforce and allow us to address our workforce shortage, better meet the needs of patients, and improve patient outcomes.”

“This year, we worked to address the most pressing issues in our community. In Colorado, too many people are struggling to access or pay for the behavioral health care they need to thrive,” said Cutter. “This law is part of the total $450 million investment of federal funds to help us meet this challenge by boosting our health care workforce and recruiting and retaining the providers Colorado needs. It will also create new pathways for people entering mental health professions and save providers money as they pursue their education and go through the credentialing process.”

The BHA’s workforce plan must include efforts to diversify the behavioral health workforce, expand the peer support professional workforce, reduce the administrative burden on providers, and support the existing workforce. The law also provides funding to the community college system to build a robust career pathway for the behavioral health field.

SB22-181 was developed based on recommendations from the state’s Behavioral Health Transformational Task Force.