May 19, 2022

JOINT RELEASE: SIGNED! BILL TO INCREASE BEHAVIORAL HEALTH ACCESS AND DIVERT COLORADANS IN NEED AWAY FROM CRIMINAL JUSTICE SYSTEM

Legislation invests over $61 million to help folks get treatment for mental health and substance use support


DENVER, CO – Governor Jared Polis today signed SB22-196, legislation that makes major investments in behavioral health services for individuals in – or at risk of becoming involved in – the criminal justice system.


SB22-196, sponsored by Senators Julie Gonzales, D-Denver, and Pete Lee, D-Colorado Springs, and Representatives Jennifer Bacon, D-Denver, and Adrienne Benavidez, D-Commerce City, implements recommendations from the Behavioral Health Transformational Task Force by investing nearly $62 million in early intervention and diversion efforts to get individuals with mental health conditions and substance use disorders into needed treatment rather than getting involved in the criminal justice system.


“For far too long, Colorado has tried to arrest and jail our way out of the behavioral health crisis, and it simply hasn’t worked,” said Sen. Julie Gonzales. “Criminalizing people with behavioral health needs is the most expensive and least effective way to provide mental health care services to the folks who need it most. I am proud of the approaches we take in SB22-196 to intentionally intervene, deflect, and divert people out of the criminal justice system in order to get them the behavioral health resources they need.”


“This bill makes significant efforts in proven programs to help divert people with behavioral health needs from the criminal justice system and connect them with critical services,” said Rep. Jennifer Bacon. “Putting people in jail who need treatment won’t help them get better. The legislation signed into law today is an effective way to reduce recidivism and help Coloradans receive the treatment they need.”


“Far too many Coloradans with mental health conditions and substance use disorders are struggling in jail cells without proper care and treatment to get them back on their feet, and that is simply unacceptable,” said Sen. Pete Lee. “Jailing folks with behavioral health needs will only exacerbate their condition and lead to more recidivism, which is why this new law helps ensure these individuals get the treatment they need before they enter the criminal justice system in the first place.”


“Colorado’s behavioral health crisis is critical, and it’s leading to more people who need treatment but are instead channeled into our criminal justice system where they don’t get the necessary services to get back on their feet,” said Rep. Adrienne Benavidez. “This new law will divert Coloradans away from the criminal justice system and toward treatment because we know that these strategies are effective at addressing the root causes and helping avoid recidivism.”


Nearly $51 million of the funding in this bill will go toward the Early Intervention, Deflection, and Redirection from the Criminal Justice System Grant Program at the Department of Human Services to support community responses to behavioral health and mitigate individuals’ involvement with the criminal justice system related to their behavioral health needs.


The bill also directs $3 million to the Department of Corrections to provide medication-assisted treatment to individuals in custody in FY22-23 & FY23-24; $4 million to Judicial Department for pretrial diversion programs; and $3.5 million to the Behavioral Information and Data-Sharing Program in the Department of Public Safety to enable counties to integrate their jail data system to exchange behavioral health information with the Colorado Integrated Criminal Justice Information System.