Colorado bill aims to implement statewide behavioral health crisis response training program

In an effort to address the limited support services available Coloradans living with intellectual or developmental disabilities (IDDs), Reps. Mary Young and Perry Will are sponsoring HB 21-1166, “Behavioral Health Crisis Response Training.” If passed, this bill will direct the Department of Health Care Policy and Financing (HCPF) to choose a vendor to develop a statewide comprehensive care coordination and treatment training model for providers who work with individuals with IDDs.



According to Young, the behavioral health needs of the country’s IDD population are two to three times higher than those of the general population. This bill will specifically increase support for Coloradans with dual diagnoses — a population the bill’s sponsors say is critically underserved. Young said up to 33% of individuals with IDD have co-occurring challenges, or suffer from more than one condition. These can include a combination of behavioral health conditions, neurological disorders and chronic physical health conditions. 

Individuals with co-occurring challenges like these are often unable to receive necessary care, Young explained. She said some of these individuals can’t even access intake screening because providers claim they can’t discern which of their dual conditions is causing the problem that needs treatment. For instance, if an individual is experiencing both a mental health crisis and has a chronic physical condition, their problems might be incorrectly attributed to the physical condition, leaving their mental health untreated.

Young explained that the availability of IDD support services is critical to ensuring a safe future for these individuals:

“Traditional therapy models are often not effective. When an adult with co-occurring disorders doesn’t get treatment, it results in hospitalization in psychiatric hospitals, emergency room visits and, unfortunately, jail.”

Will said the bill allows for community members to be treated while remaining in their communities, instead of traveling to emergency departments or other facilities. 

He also emphasized it will help reduce jail admissions — in her introduction of the bill, Young also mentioned that a significant amount of prisoners have been found to struggle with IDD.

“The need for quality care for those who are dually diagnosed is a statewide issue and thus deserves a statewide solution.”

By Nov. 1, 2021, case management agencies, mental health centers and program-approved service agencies would nominate up to 20 providers to participate in the training. An additional 10 providers will be chosen by HCPF to specifically focus on providing care to underserved areas. Selected providers need to have experience working with the IDD population, and will be reimbursed at their current rate of pay for the training. The bill requires training to be made available via teleconference in order to reach providers in rural areas. 

Cordelia Robinson Rosenberg, a registered nurse with experience in behavioral health care and a member of Gov. Jared Polis’ Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities Subcommittee, testified in support of the bill:

“This bill would provide for training for up to 30 clinical or school-based professionals who would work to support crisis stabilization and ongoing care coordination for individuals with dual diagnoses of intellectual and developmental disabilities, and mental health or behavior that is a danger to self or others. This is a population of individuals and their families who have struggled with inadequate services for decades.”