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April 26, 2024

Legislation to Reduce Competency Waitlist, Connect Coloradans to Mental Health Services Passes

DENVER, CO - The House today passed legislation sponsored by Representatives Javier Mabrey and Judy Amabile that would increase the success of eligible individuals referred from the criminal justice system by connecting them to an individualized care coordination plan in an effort to divert them from incarceration. HB24-1355 passed by a vote of 55-8.

“The waitlist for competency services is so long that people who have not yet been found guilty of a crime are in jail longer than people who are convicted,” said Rep. Javier Mabrey, D-Denver. “This legislation will help address Colorado’s broken competency system so we can provide mental health services to people who need them. Not only will this better serve our most vulnerable, but it will also make our communities safer.”

“People with mental health struggles are disproportionately represented in the criminal justice system, and they desperately need services,” said Rep. Judy Amabile, D-Boulder. “When a mental health disorder is left untreated, Coloradans are often sent to jail for a relatively low offense, limiting their ability to rehabilitate. Routing people to diversion programs instead of the competency system connects them to mental health services that can help prevent a crisis and reduce recidivism.”

HB24-1355 would create the Bridges Wraparound Care Program to refer eligible individuals with mental health struggles from the criminal justice system into wraparound care services.

A defendant can be eligible for the Bridges Wraparound Care Program if they consent to participate in the program, the district attorney and defense counsel agree that there is a reasonable cause to believe that the defendant will be found incompetent, and the defendant is not charged with a class 1, 2, or 3 felony, a level 1 and 2 drug felony, a sex offense, a crime of violence, or any offense described in C.R.S. 24-4.1-302 (1), unless the district attorney waives this requirement in the interest of justice.

If the defendant is eligible and agrees to enter the program, the court will assign a coordinator within the program who will screen and access the defendant to create a plan for the defendant. After 182 days of care, the care coordinator will review the defendant’s progress and if the court finds the defendant is compliant with their care plan, the charges must be dropped. If the defendant has not complied with the individualized care plan but is engaged in the process, the court may continue the case for up to 91 more days. If the defendant is not engaged, the district attorney may end the defendant’s placement in the program and begin prosecuting the case.

The bill would also require each judicial district to enter into a memorandum of understanding regarding the Bridges Wraparound Care Program with district attorneys, public defenders, the Department of Human Services, the Behavioral Health Administration, treatment providers, local behavioral health case management programs, and local behavioral health case management programs to come up with how they will provide treatment to individuals found eligible for this program.

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