SitRep: Progress on state mental health legislation

By Renata Hill, Moodfuel News

This first Situation Report breaks down the many mental health bills moving through the Colorado statehouse by detailing who has introduced what and why and bill momentum

Coloradans, particularly under-resourced residents struggling with mental health challenges, will be affected by progress made (or lack thereof) on the numerous mental health measures passing through the statehouse this term. Gov. Jared Polis just signed one. In total, 24 bills have been introduced. Several are fast-tracked, most are progressing normally, a few are languishing in committees and three were killed.

🔖 Bill sponsor(s)
↗️ Exceptional progress (fast-tracked through committees)
➡️ Average progress (moving through committees as expected)
↘️ Slow progress, may be rejected (languishing in a committee)
📎 Assigned to a committee in the House or Senate
❌ Rejected by the House or Senate

Passed into law

Licensed Psychologist Prescriptive Authority (HB23-1071) would enable rigorously trained psychologists to write psychotropic prescriptions for patients with mental health challenges.
🔖 Reps. Amabile & Bradford and Sens. Simpson & Fenberg
✅ Signed by Gov. Jared Polis on Mar. 3.

On Governor Polis' desk

Higher Education Crisis and Suicide Prevention (HB23-1007) would require public and private universities and colleges to print national Lifeline (988) and suicide prevention contact information on student IDs; if IDs aren't used, the school must distribute this information to students each term.
🔖 Reps. Catlin & Amabile and Sens. Roberts & Pelton
❓ Awaiting action by Gov. Jared Polis

Just introduced

  1. Large Entertainment Facility Substance-Free Seating Requirement (SB23-171) end of Feb. in the Senate would require entertainment and sports venues with 7,000+ seats to designate four percent (at least 280 seats) as substance-free with prominent signage where alcohol, electronic smoking devices, marijuana and tobacco are banned; space for differently abled customers must be included and seating can't higher or farther away from the stage or field than regular seats.
    🔖 Sen. Priola and Rep. deGruy Kennedy
    📎 Assigned to Senate Finance committee
  2. Access to Certain Behavioral Health Services (SB23-174) beginning of Mar. in the Senate would provide behavioral health services to Medicaid recipients under 21 years of age.
    🔖 Sens. Kolker & Gardner
    📎 In Health & Human Services
    The bill requires the state department to begin to provide the services no later than July 1, 2024.
  3. Recovery Residence Discharge Policy (HB23-1204) in the House would require a recovery residence to create a policy in order to discharge or transfer a client and provide referrals to treatment and support services, alternative housing options and follow-up care recommendations; require the certifying government agency (usually the BHA or OCFMH) to establish a grievance and appeal process for clients who they believe they were wrongfully discharged or transferred and allow the client to appeal the decision to the Colorado Department of Personnel and Administration, Office of Administrative Courts.
    🔖 Rep. Lindstedt and Sen. Priola
    📎 Assigned to House Public & Behavioral Health & Human Services.

In the House

  1. School Mental Health Assessment (HB23-1003) would assess students for mental health challenges in sixth to 12th grades, administered by a contractor for the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE).
    🔖 Rep. Michaelson Jenet and Sen. Cutter
    ➡️ Considering financial impact since Feb. 7
  2. Secondary School Student Substance Use (HB23-1009) would create a secondary school student substance use committee in the Department of Education to identify high school students who need substance use treatment, offer interventions and refer the student to substance use treatment.
    🔖 Rep. Lindsay and Sen. Moreno
    ↘️ Considering financial impact since Jan. 25
  3. Juvenile Competency to Proceed (HB23-1012) would allows court officers, CDHS, evalutaors and treatment providers access to a minor's assessments; enable a minor to select an evaluator; and for the dismissal of charges if the minor isn't likely to be restored to competency in the foreseeable future, depending on the crime serverity.
    🔖 Rep. Amabile and Sen. Rodriguez
    ↘️ Considering financial impact since Jan. 25
  4. Mental Health Professionals Reporting Exemption (HB23-1031) would exempt mental health professionals from reporting sexually transmitted infection information about their patients to public health entities.
    🔖 Reps. Story & Willford and Sen. Winter
    ➡️ In Health & Human Services committee since Feb. 15
  5. Veterans Mental Health Session Reimbursement Program (HB23-1088) would create a veterans mental health services program within the Behavioral Health Administration (BHA) to reimburse mental healthcare providers for up to 10 additional session for veterans who have exhausted their annual Veterans Health Administration (VHA) benefits.
    🔖 Rep. Martinez
    ➡️ Considering financial impact since Feb. 7
  6. Drug Coverage for Serious Mental Illness (HB23-1130) would enable a patient with serious mental illness (SMI) to receive coverage for a psychotropic medication without enduring more than one medication trial in step-therapy (trying a less expensive option before "stepping up" to a more expensive drug); defines SMI for the Colorado Medical Assistance Act; and requires the Medical Services Board to review a new, FDA-approved drug for SMI within 90 days.
    🔖 Rep. Michaelson Jenet and Sen. Rodriguez
    ↗️ Considering financial impact since Feb. 21
  7. Procedures Related to Adult Competency (HB23-1138) would require the BHA to provide in-patient treatment or the CDHS to provide outpatient treatment to a person assessed as incompetent to stand trial; would remand this person to BHA custody for treatment of less than three months without an initial 72-hour hold if the person previously refused treatment; appoint an attorney for this person; and enable the person to contest the petition and be heard by a judge within 14 days.
    🔖 Rep. Amabile and Sen. Soper
    ➡️ Considering financial impact since Feb. 14
  8. Pathways to Behavioral Health Care (HB23-1153) would require the Department of Human Services to conduct a feasibility study on creating a support system for residents with SMI through a collaboration between the BHA and judicial systems and submit a report by Dec. 31, 2023.
    🔖 Reps. Armagost & Amabile and Sens. Pelton & Rodriguez
    ➡️ Considering financial impact since Feb. 14
  9. Opioid Harm Reduction (HB23-1164) would charge a person who possesses fentanyl or any drug containing fentanyl with a level four drug felony unless the person can show evidence of ignorance of that knowledge in which case the person would be charged with a level 1 drug misdemeanor; create an opioid reversal drug fund in the Department of Education to bulk purchase and distribute an opioid reversal drug in schools; extend civil and criminal immunity to the Department of Education for furnishing an an opioid reversal drug; require every law enforcement agency to submit an annual report to the Department of Public Health and Environment listing every incident in which an officer administered an opioid reversal drug to any individual.
    🔖 Rep. Lynch
    ↘️ In Judiciary committee since Feb. 2
  10. Improved Outcomes Persons Behavioral Health (HB23-1200) would create a pilot program to allow those experiencing mental crises who can't find treatment at a community mental health clinic to receive a voucher to use for payment with a private treatment provider.
    🔖 Reps. Ricks & Bockenfeld
    ➡️ In Public & Behavioral Health & Human Services committee since Feb. 14
  11. Overdose Prevention Center Authorization (HB23-1202) would enable cities to operate overdose prevention centers to support residents at risk of preventable overdoses.
    🔖 Reps. Epps & Willford and Sens. Priola & Gonzales
    ↗️ Ready for a House vote since Mar. 6.

In the Senate

  1. Employment of School Mental Health Professionals (SB23-004) would enable schools, school districts or the Division of Youth Services to employ school-based mental health providers licensed as therapists, but not licensed by the Department of Education, to coordinate mental health supports for students.
    🔖 Sens. Marchman & Jaquez Lewis and Reps. Michaelson Jenet & Young
    ➡️ Passed Senate and in House Education committee since Feb. 21
  2. Disordered Eating Prevention (SB23-014) would create the Office of Disordered Eating Prevention within CDHS to provide resources, collaborate with related government and nonprofit entities and coordinate a research grant program for recognition and response to disordered eating; and would create a Disordered Eating Prevention Commission of 17 members for statewide leadership and advocacy.
    🔖 Sen. Moreno and Rep. Lindsay
    ↘️ In Senate Health & Human Services since Jan. 10
  3. Medicaid Preauthorization Exemption (SB23-033) would prohibit the Department of Health Care Policy and Financing from imposing prior authorization, step therapy or fail first requirements (a patient must try and fail on one or more medications chosen by an insurer before accessing the optimal treatment prescribed by a healthcare provider) for Medicaid coverage of a prescription drug to treat SMI.
    🔖 Sens. Rodriguez & Fields and Rep. Amabile
    ➡️ Considering financial impact since Feb. 9
  4. Criminal Penalty Controlled Substance Supplier (SB23-109) would criminalize the selling, dispensing or sharing of a controlled substance that causes death of a person who used it.
    🔖 Sens. Pelton & Mullica
    ➡️ Ready for a Senate vote since Mar. 6
  5. Protections for People with an Eating Disorder (SB23-176) would prevent health insurers from using body weight standards for determining care for a person with disordered eating, prohibit the sale of weight-loss or diet pills to minors without a prescription, create rules for usage of force-feeding tubes and require disordered eating treatment and recovery facilities to designate the level of care they provide.
    🔖 Sen. Moreno & Sen. Cutter
    ➡️ In Health & Human Services since Mar. 3.


  • Access to Medical Marijuana (SB23-081) in the Senate would remove various reporting requirements for physicians prescribing medical marijuana; allow a physician to work with a patient via telemedicine; increase the amount of medical marijuana concentrate a patient can purchase; allow a physician to prescribe and a store to sell more than the statutory amount; and allow a caregiver to purchase retail medical marijuana for a patient under 21 years of age.
    🔖 Sens. Van Winkle & Jaquez Lewis and Reps. Soper & Snyder
    ❌ Rejected in the Senate on Feb. 16
  • Access to Behavioral Health Services (SB23-091) in the Senate would require access to certain behavioral health services for Medicaid recipients.
    🔖 Sen. Kolker & Sen. Gardner
    ❌ Rejected in the Senate on Feb. 16
  • Mental Health Professionals Practice Requirements (HB23-1070) in the House would reduce the individual and marriage and family therapy practice requirement for licensure to one year of post-master's or one year of postdoctoral practice, and reduce the clinical supervised practice period to one year.
    🔖 Rep. Ricks and Sen. Butler
    ❌ Rejected in the House on Feb. 28.

If you're interested in contacting your state representatives or senators to learn more about these bills or voice your comments, you can find contact information for your elected officials or the House and Senate district in which you reside on this page provided by the League of Women Voters of Colorado.

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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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