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April 12, 2023

Lukens Bills to Increase Access to Mental Health Services Pass Committee

DENVER, CO - The House Public & Behavioral Health & Human Services Committee today passed bipartisan legislation to expand affordable mental and behavioral health for youth and streamline necessary services for people on parole or probation. Both bills passed unanimously by a vote of 11-0.

“Being a teacher in rural Colorado, I’ve seen firsthand how crucial it is to remove unnecessary barriers to affordable and accessible mental health care,” said Rep. Meghan Lukens, D-Steamboat Springs. “Rural Colorado kids are twice as likely to die by suicide, which is why I’m bringing legislation to connect kids with the services they need to live happy, healthy lives. HB23-1268 also aims to streamline access to resources like substance use treatment to promote public safety and save lives.”

SB23-174, also sponsored by Representative Ty Winter, requires the Department of Health Care Policy and Financing to provide certain behavioral health services for Medicaid recipients that are 21-years-old or younger without requiring a formal diagnosis, removing barriers to access. The services include therapy, evaluation, case management, treatment planning, and other services based on feedback from community members.

A study by Mental Health America found that only 34.4% of Colorado youth with depression receive treatment to address their mental health issues. Families on Medicaid often struggle with financial restrictions, transportation to health care centers, and other hurdles to receive appropriate or preventative care. By eliminating the requirement for an official diagnosis, Colorado youth and their families will have quicker and easier access to equitable prevention-focused services to prevent a mental health crisis.

HB23-1268, also sponsored by Representative Gabe Evans, also streamlines access to treatment for people who were involved in the criminal justice system in other states. Under current Colorado law, any person who is serving an out-of-state probation or parole is required to get a criminal background check, fingerprints, and photographs through the Department of Corrections before they can receive court-ordered treatment services. While the background check is only supposed to take 48 hours, they often take weeks to process, keeping patients from accessing the services they need to address issues from mental health disorders, substance use disorder, and support for domestic violence treatment.

This bill requires background checks to be completed within 48 hours to shorten waiting times to qualify for life-saving and necessary treatments. It would allow treatment providers to initiate care with individuals on probation or parole who comply with their supervision and have checked-in with law enforcement, giving individuals access to the life saving care they need immediately while also protecting public safety.

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