March 10, 2022

SCHOOL SAFETY AND STUDENT BEHAVIORAL HEALTH BILLS ADVANCE

DENVER, CO – The House Education Committee today passed four bills to boost school safety and improve student access to behavioral health services.

“These bills continue our important work to improve school safety, expand access to behavioral health care for students and prepare our students for success,” said Rep. Tony Exum D-Colorado Springs. “This bill gives our public schools the resources they need to make classrooms and school spaces safer by protecting school grounds. It also extends the successful I Matter program, which is currently offering free mental health counseling sessions to Colorado youth across the state.”

HB22-1243, which passed committee unanimously, would invest $14 million toward improving the security and safety of public schools and is part of Colorado Democrat’s Public Safety Package. This bill allocates $6 million to the School Security Disbursement Program over two years, which will be reauthorized by HB22-1120. Based on recommendations of the Behavioral Health Transformational Task Force, it also puts $2 million in ARPA funding toward the behavioral health care professional matching grant program and $6 million towards extending the popular I Matter program beyond its scheduled repeal in June 2022. This investment will pave the way to serve youth with free counseling sessions for another two years.

“For years, we’ve been working to take a multi-pronged approach to improve school safety that includes both increased access to behavioral health and critical investments in our schools,” said Rep. Dafna Michaelson Jenet (D-Commerce City), former chair of the 2019 School Safety Interim Committee. “Extending the I Matter program is the right move. Colorado students across the state are taking advantage of free counseling sessions. I’m proud of each and every young person who has bravely participated in the I Matter program, and I hope by extending the program we can reach even more youth statewide.”

Three additional school safety bills also passed the House Education Committee unanimously.

HB22-1120, sponsored by Representatives Kevin Van Winkle and Patrick Neville would reauthorize and make updates to the School Security Disbursement Program, which provides grants for schools to install monitoring equipment and security systems at entrances and exits. Grants can also be used for school emergency response training and student threat assessment training for all school staff.

HB22-1274, sponsored by Representatives Dafna Michaelson Jenet and Colin Larson, would continue the Colorado Interagency Working Group on School Safety, a 14-member group dedicated to enhancing school safety through the cost-effective use of public resources, which is currently set to expire on September 1, 2022. If passed, this bill would continue the group’s work indefinitely.

HB22-1275, sponsored by Representatives Barbara McLachlan and Colin Larson, would continue the Colorado School Safety Resource Center Advisory Board which helps in providing resources, training and technical assistance to foster safe and secure learning environments as well as early intervention to prevent crisis situations. The board is set for repeal on September 1, 2022.