Apr. SitRep: Colorado's progress on mental health legislation

By Renata Hill, Moodfuel

Of the 31 mental health-related bills introduced since the beginning of this year's Colorado General Assembly in January, two became law in April

1) Harm reduction in high schools

Signed on Apr. 22 by Lt. Gov. Dianne Primavera while Gov. Polis was away, the new law, Opiate Antagonists and Detection Products in Schools (HB 1003), will enable high school students to act as first responders for classmates experiencing opiate overdoses. They will be able to administer the opiate reversal drug Naloxone without legal repercussions nor school disciplinary action. The law also states that possession of Naloxone may not be used as probable cause to question a student or search personal possessions.

High school students in La Plata County generated momentum for this bill, and several helped craft it, after an Animas High School sophomore died from an accidental Fentanyl poisoning in 2021.

In an interview with KSJD, bill co-sponsor and State Senator Dafna Michaelson Jenet said, "This bill is all about agency. It is telling kids, 'you are smart enough, you are strong enough, you are ready to make the decisions that are necessary for you, for your friends, and in this case, in the life of your friend.'"

2)  Removal of stigmatizing language from official state use

The National Institutes of Health recognizes the phrase, "excited delirium" (ExD) as a clinical description of agitated behavior, but the American Psychiatric Association said it has been misapplied and overused, particularly in law enforcement incidents involving People of Color.

As the police reform movement continues in Colorado, catalyzed by the tragic 2019 death of Elijah McClain in Aurora, state and municipal authorities are becoming more aware and intentional about official language. The Colorado Peace Officers Standards and Training unit and the Colorado Dept. of Public Health and Environment decided at the end of 2023 to remove all instances of ExD from printed and digital use. On Apr. 4, Gov. Jared Polis codified Prohibiting Term Excited Delirium (HB 1103) into law to remove the phrase from first responder training materials and official documents, such as incident and coroner reports.

Likely headed for passage

The following bills have passed through both houses and likely will head to the governor's desk.

Colorado polling shows bipartisan support for law to regulate social media companies
Following an alarming report from the U.S. Surgeon General, a Colorado poll shows voters are concerned about the impact of social media on youth mental health and want action from the state.

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Supporting people in recovery from trauma and suicidal intensity is my Why. I live differently abled & am proudly part-Indigenous (Mvskoke).
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