DENVER, CO – Today, Governor Jared Polis signed a pair of bills into law that would reduce licensing fees for mental health professionals and increase access to behavioral health for Colorado youth.
HB22-1299 championed by Representative Mary Young, D-Greeley, as well as Senators Chris Kolker, D-Centennial, and Rhonda Fields, D-Aurora, would reduce license fees ranging from $62 to $262 for mental health professionals regulated by state boards.
“This is a thank-you to the frontline mental health workers who have seen firsthand the increase in mental health needs that began pre-COVID and have only accelerated with COVID in our lives,” said Kolker. “We need to keep these essential workers in the profession, and this bill acknowledges their hard work and gives them a break so they can focus on their jobs, and care for patients that desperately need their help and support.” “This session, we prioritized improving behavioral health access, especially for youth and families,” said Young. “We’re waiving licensing fees for psychologists, professional counselors, social workers and other mental health professionals not only to save them money but in recognition of their tireless efforts to provide Coloradans with essential behavioral health services. We are also investing more than $11 million of federal pandemic relief dollars toward addressing Colorado’s youth behavioral health crisis by making it easier for families and youth to access treatment in their own communities. Together, these bills are part of our transformational investment to build a healthier Colorado for all.”
“The pandemic has not only exacerbated stress for Coloradans, it has significantly increased the workload for our mental health workers,” said Fields. “To help them out, we’re going to make it easier and cheaper for mental health workers to apply or renew their licenses so our psychologists, counselors, therapists, and social workers can focus on providing critical services to patients, not on paperwork and fees.”
Under HB22-1299, Colorado’s hardworking mental health professionals renewing or seeking a license will collectively save nearly $3.7 million. Pandemic pressures have contributed to an increase of Colorado adults seeking mental health services for symptoms of stress, anxiety, and depression.
The Governor also signed SB22-147, championed by Senator Kolker and Representative Young, which will allow pediatricians to better identify and treat behavioral health conditions and provide school-based support for kids and their families.
“Far too many kids in Colorado are struggling with their mental health,” Kolker said. “We must act urgently to address this crisis and provide critical support to our state’s young people where and when they need it most. Together, we can work to end the stigma surrounding mental health, expand access to care, and save lives.”
Over the last decade, youth suicide has increased an astonishing 51 percent, as youth behavioral health has reached a crisis level. SB22-147 aims to improve access to behavioral health care services for youth and families through three programs:
$4.6 million for the Colorado Pediatric Psychiatry Consultation and Access Program (CoPPCAP): This program provides support and assistance to primary care providers and pediatricians to help identify and treat behavioral health needs. The program connects pediatricians with pediatric psychiatrists who can provide consultations, resources, and referrals for children with mental health or substance use disorder needs.
$5 million for the Behavioral Health Care Professional Matching Grant Program: The bill contributes $5 million to an existing grant program to help schools increase the number of school health professionals who can provide behavioral health services to students.
$1.5 million for the School-based Health Center Grant Program: The bill invests $1.5 million in funding to expand school-based health centers in Colorado.
SB22-147 was developed based on recommendations from the state’s Behavioral Health Transformational Task Force.