Mental Health Colorado to advocate for several bills aiming to improve behavioral health


Shane Ersland


Colorado’s 2024 legislative session began last week, and the nonprofit organization Mental Health Colorado will be advocating for several key bills that aim to help residents improve their behavioral health outcomes. 

Mental Health Colorado hosted a webinar Thursday to highlight its legislative priorities. CEO Vincent Atchity said they reflect the organization’s goals of supporting families, children, and aging Coloradans.

“Mental health, like physical health, is something all of us have,” Atchity said. “And none of us can expect it to be perfect. We all have ups and downs. One key area to invest resources in is making sure we’re providing a strong start for children. And in supporting people as they age.”

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Bridget Anshus, senior policy advocate at Mental Health Colorado, said it could be a big year for voter turnout on each of the local, state, and federal levels with this being a presidential election year.

“Historically, presidential election years bring more voter engagement,” Anshus said. “We’ll see issues such as reproductive rights and the economy take center stage federally. We will probably see the fight for the presidency (be) more intensive than we’ve ever seen before, so buckle up.”

Colorado will definitely see some of the big-ticket national political issues seep into the state’s legislature, Anshus said. And state lawmakers are expected to build on work they did in the interim session, she said.

“We have seen a lot of work by the legislature during the interim session. The Colorado Legislature already met for a special session in November for property tax relief. The governor made significant investments in behavioral health. From our perspective, the Democrats have a lot to do to keep their majority. The dynamic that is always an undercurrent in Colorado is the economic forecast and economy. All eyes will be on inflation, and how consumers are spending. Those are things we’re monitoring at a high level.”

— Anshus

Mental Health Colorado will advocate for House Bill 24-1066, which aims to help prevent workplace violence in healthcare settings. The bill would require certain healthcare facilities to establish a workplace violence prevention committee to document and review workplace violence incidents, and develop a workplace violence prevention plan.

“This bill would require facilities to establish a workplace prevention violence committee, require training on this plan, and submit biannual workplace violence incident reports to the Department of Public Health and Environment or the Behavioral Health Administration,” Anshus said. 

Other bills the nonprofit will monitor during the session include:

  • Senate Bill 24-001, which would continue the youth mental health services program known as I Matter, which is scheduled to repeal on June 30th
  • HB 24-1003, which would develop a policy for maintaining a supply of opiate antagonists on school buses and related protocols
  • HB 24-1045, which would prohibit a carrier that provides coverage under a health benefit plan for a drug used to treat a substance use disorder from requiring prior authorization for the drug based solely on the dosage amount
  • HB 24-1079, which aims to address the treatment of people with behavioral health disorders in the criminal and juvenile justice systems, and people detained in jails who are on emergency commitments

Mental Health Colorado is also supporting legislative concepts that establish regulatory protections for people accessing treatment for an eating disorder; that clarify how family members and caregivers can engage and support loved ones’ care, treatment, and recovery; and extended coverage and payment for inpatient mental healthcare.

“It’s extended coverage for inpatient health covered by Medicaid. This concept is based on a restriction that prevents Medicaid from providing care within 15 days. We’ll be advocating for the removal of this restriction. It’s a budget ask, rather than a piece of legislation.”

— Anshus

Mental Health Colorado’s Day at the Capitol event will be held on March 6th in Denver, where advocates can join the nonprofit in lobbying lawmakers that morning. 

“With all these bills, we’re looking for advocates to take part in supporting these efforts,” Anshus said. “Anyone can be an advocate. We rely on our advocates to help support our priorities.”

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