DENVER, CO – Governor Polis today signed legislation that will increase student access to mental health services in schools.
“Colorado students are battling a mental health crisis – and we’re committed to getting them the professional support they need,” said Rep. Dafna Michaelson Jenet, D-Commerce City. “Our educators go above and beyond to support our students, but they can’t do it alone; Colorado schools need more mental health professionals. This law expands schools’ ability to hire qualified mental health professionals so our students can access mental health services in school. The bravery of our students never ceases to amaze me, and I’m proud we can streamline the school mental health services they need.”
“Without mental health professionals, our overworked educators are stepping up to provide mental health support to our youth,” said Rep. Mary Young, a school psychologist, D-Greeley. “Our law cuts red tape and makes it possible for schools to hire more licensed mental health professionals in schools now. Many Colorado students are combating anxiety, depression, and other mental health issues while struggling to find the support they need in schools. This important legislation helps our schools hire more mental health professionals and prioritize the needs of students.”
SB23-004 allows school districts to employ mental health professionals who hold a Colorado license to practice therapeutic services and have experience working with children and adolescents, but don’t have a special service provider license through the Department of Education, to be school-based therapists. This law streamlines the hiring process and increases access to mental health resources in schools for Colorado children and youth.
The COVID-19 pandemic increased feelings of isolation, anxiety, and depression among youth. About 40% of Colorado middle and high school students reported feeling depressed in 2020 per the Health Kids Colorado Survey. Additionally, a 2022 study found that Colorado Children’s Hospital saw a 103% increase of patients visiting emergency departments for behavioral health concerns compared to data from 2019. This bill is crucial in reducing and preventing mental health issues for Colorado youth before they reach crisis levels.