Signed! Bills to Create Behavioral Health Admin. and Prevent Suicide Deaths

DENVER, CO – Governor Jared Polis today signed two bills into law that will expand access to behavioral and mental health services for Coloradans and reduce suicide deaths.

“The tragedy and devastation of a suicide death or attempt is something that far too many Coloradans have endured,” said Rep. Lindsey Daugherty, D-Arvada. “Today, we’re taking a great step forward with a comprehensive approach to reduce youth suicide deaths and ensure our communities have the resources they need in the aftermath of a suicide attempt to prevent future tragedies.”  

“Far too many of us have seen firsthand just how devastating and widespread the impact of a suicide can be on a community,” said Sen. Kerry Donovan, D-Vail. “This bill empowers the Suicide Prevention Commission to proactively prevent, intervene, and react to suicide in Colorado by recognizing and addressing the full scope of the problem. We are meeting the moment with the urgency it requires and I’m proud to see the bill signed into law.”

HB21-1119, which is sponsored by Representatives Daugherty and Rich and Senators Donovan and Coram, expands the Crisis and Suicide Training Grant Program to include “‘train-the-trainer” programs at public schools and funds peer-to-peer specialist programs that help students support their classmates. The bill incorporates postvention and follow-up care into the state’s comprehensive suicide prevention approach to support individuals and communities in the aftermath of a suicide attempt. Importantly, CDPHE will update the department’s suicide prevention resources to include region-specific information for primary care providers on how to recognize and respond to suicidal patients, including information that can be shared with patients and information for health facilities to share upon a patient’s release.

Research shows that people who have known someone who died by suicide were 1.6 times more likely to have suicidal thoughts, 2.9 times more likely to have a plan for suicide themselves, and 3.7 times more likely to have attempted suicide. Suicide has become a far more common cause of death among peace officers, medical professionals, and school-aged children. Children or adolescents who know about a friend’s suicide attempt are nearly twice as likely to attempt suicide themselves.

“Too many Coloradans have suffered because our state has not addressed gaps in our behavioral health system that prevent people from accessing the care they need,” said Rep. Young, D-Greeley. “Today, Governor Polis signed legislation to create the Colorado Behavioral Health Administration, bringing about critical reforms to address gaps and access challenges in our health system to ensure that Coloradans can get the mental health care services they need. This new administration will oversee and administer behavioral health programs in Colorado, creating a more comprehensive approach to connect services with those who need them.”

“Mental and behavioral health is critical to Coloradans’ wellbeing, but too often it is treated as a luxury rather than a necessity – with prohibitive costs restricting access to those who need care the most,” said Sen. Rhonda Fields, D-Aurora. “HB-1097 sets the groundwork for a more connected, convenient mental health system in our state so that people can receive high-quality, professional help no matter their income level. I am incredibly proud to see this bill signed today and look forward to the difference it will make for our state.”

HB21-1097, sponsored by Representatives Young and Pelton and Senators Fields and Gardner, would create the Behavioral Health Administration to ensure that every Coloradan experiencing behavioral health needs has access to timely, high-quality services in their communities that they can afford. It tasks the Department of Human Services with creating a plan for a single state entity that would be responsible for administering and overseeing behavioral health programs in Colorado.