Gov. Jared Polis on Monday signed into law a package of four bills aimed at bolstering mental and behavioral health services and responding to substance abuse.
The largest of the three mental and behavioral health bills in terms of fiscal impact and legislative scale is Senate Bill 137 from Sens. Brittany Pettersen, D-Lakewood, and Faith Winter, D-Westminster, and Reps. Dafna Michaelson Jenet, D-Commerce City, and Chris Kennedy, D-Lakewood.
The $114 million bill uses federal stimulus funds to cover a lot of ground, including addiction services and crisis response. It also has a strong lean toward helping young people, including $2.5 million for elementary school programs and $5 million for specialized, high-quality youth residential help and therapeutic foster care.
“This is the bill that, as a value statement from the state legislature, says, 'We believe that behavioral health is one of the greatest needs in Colorado and we want to use the one-time funds that we have through the American Rescue Act in a thoughtful way to transform behavioral health,” Polis said at a signing ceremony at Boettcher Mansion.
Pettersen, meanwhile, pledged more substantive work on behavioral health was still to come.
"Our coalition and partnership isn't about band-aid approaches, this is really about changing systems," she said. "So let's roll up our sleeves, let's celebrate today and get back to work tomorrow."
The other two mental and behavioral health bills signed into law by the governor include:
- Senate Bill 154 from Sens. Chris Kolker, D-Centennial, and Cleave Simpson, R-Alamosa, and Reps. Lisa Cutter, D-Littleton, and Matt Soper, R-Delta, which will launch the 9-8-8 national suicide prevention lifeline network in Colorado by next year
- House Bill 1281 from Cutter, Pettersen and Rep. Perry Will, R-New Castle, which creates the Community Behavioral Health Disaster Preparedness and Response Program in the state Department of Public Health and Environment. The program is designed to ensure behavioral health services are adequately represented as part of the state’s preparation for and response to disasters
At the ceremony, Polis also put his signature on House Bill 1276.
The bill from Kennedy, Pettersen, Rep. Leslie Herod, D-Denver, and Sen. Kevin Priola, R-Henderson, makes a number of tweaks to state law in an effort to mitigate opioid or other substance abuse.
Those include prescription limitations on benzodiazepines, a permanent extension to the prescription drug monitoring program, a revamped educational program on the best practices for prescribing benzodiazepines and a collaborative program to be administered by the Office of Behavioral Health in the Department of Human Services to study evidence-based substance abuse prevention practices.