(The Center Square) - Colorado lawmakers introduced a $168 million legislative package Tuesday aimed at improving behavioral health care in the state.
The bills are the first pieces of legislation stemming from the recommendations of the state Behavioral Health Transformation Task Force (BHTTF), a temporary committee that was tasked with planning how to spend more than $450 million that Colorado received under the federal American Rescue Plan Act.
All of the bills that were introduced on Tuesday have bipartisan support in both the House and Senate.
"With these bills, we are well on our way to providing greater support for our kids and families, as we continue to work toward creating a behavioral health system that is accessible and equitable for all," said Sen. Brittany Petersen, D-Lakewood, who chaired the BHTTF.
One bill, House Bill 22-1281, would appropriate $90 million to local governments and community organizations to expand youth and family oriented behavioral health services.
House Bill 22-1283 would spend $54 million to support additional youth and family outpatient care services. This includes services like family counseling, psychotherapy, and other treatments options for complex behavioral health cases.
"Kids all across Colorado deserve access to quality behavioral health care, but our current system isn't getting them the care they need," said Sen. Janet Buckner, D-Aurora, one of the bill sponsors.
Sens. Chris Kolker, D-Centennial, and Jerry Sonnenberg, R-Sterling, are teaming up with Reps. Mary Young, D-Greeley, and Rod Pelton, R-Cheyenne Wells, to sponsor Senate Bill 22-147, a bill that would appropriate $11 million for youth suicide prevention programs.
Lawmakers are also seeking to extend the "I Matter" program that is administered by the Office of Behavioral Health. The program provides telehealth services for youths who need mental or behavioral health counseling.
House Bill 22-1243 seeks to extend the program beyond its June 2022 sunset date and appropriate more than $2 million for its expansion.