5 Things Colorado: Behavioral health, InnovAge audit, Primary care recommendations


Eli Kirshbaum


Ahead of the new Behavioral Health Administration’s go-live date in June 2022, Gov. Polis recently announced the appointment of Colorado’s first-ever behavioral health commissioner, Dr. Morgan Medlock, who will oversee the agency.

Expect behavioral health to be a central focus in the 2022 legislative session, which begins today. Rep. Mary Bradfield recently spoke with State of Reform about her work on the Behavioral Health Transformational Task Force and how she expects to see it translate into policy this year. Below, we also feature thoughts from behavioral health leaders Robert Werthwein and Vincent Atchity about the future of behavioral health in the state.

We will be monitoring key health policy initiatives throughout the legislative session, so keep your eye out for future coverage on some of the most important health bills making their way through the legislature.

Thanks for reading!


Eli Kirshbaum 
State of Reform

1. Vincent Atchity discusses role of BH Task Force subpanel

With the Behavioral Health Transformational Task Force releasing its draft recommendations to the legislature last week, BHTTF subpanel vice-chair Vincent Atchity, president and CEO of Mental Health Colorado, recently spoke with State of Reform about the advisory group’s contribution to the recommendations. Atchity and other subpanel members—consisting of behavioral health stakeholders from across Colorado—offer their experienced input to the task force for them to incorporate into their final recommendations.

He highlighted the subpanel’s focus on increasing access to BH care for youth, pointing to the recent lawsuit against the state alleging its noncompliance with federal youth care accessibility requirements as an example of why it needs to invest more in the area. The task force’s draft recommendations call for $54-66.5 million to expand youth residential and outpatient care.


2. CMS opens federal comment period for Colorado Option 1332 waiver

On Jan. 3, CMS notified DOI that its 1332 waiver request for the Colorado Option is “complete,” marking the start of a 30-day federal public comment period for the waiver. Submitted by DOI in November, the waiver amendment would bring in an annual $135 million in federal funding and give the state authority to pursue policy to meet the coverage expansion goals of the Colorado Option.

Stakeholders are encouraged to submit their feedback on the waiver by emailing this address before the comment period closes on Feb. 2. CMS will then review the comments and use the remaining time of its 180-day full review period to assess the waiver amendment and issue a final decision.

3. Robert Werthwein details hopes for future of Colorado BH

Robert Werthwein, director of the Office of Behavioral Health, will leave the agency at the end of February after holding the position since 2017. Werthwein began the process of centralizing Colorado’s fragmented BH system, which he said was “built on Band Aids,” by overseeing the creation of a statewide mobile BH crisis response system in 2017. He has also been a strong proponent of the soon-to-be-operational Behavioral Health Administration.

In a recent interview with State of Reform, he said the creation of the BHA and all of the work it will carry out was a key factor in his decision to leave his role. “For me, I really promoted the creation of the BHA knowing that the day would come where potentially I would put myself out of a job. But it was the right thing to do, and it was so needed.”


4. HCPF suspends new InnovAge enrollments

On Dec. 30, HCPF suspended new enrollments for InnovAge Colorado’s PACE services after an audit found discrepancies in InnovAge’s care delivery and issues with staffing. According to HCPF, the suspension on new enrollments will be in effect until itself, CDPHE, and CMS are satisfied that InnovAge has corrected the causes of its contractual violation. HCPF says it has issued a corrective action plan that requires InnovAge to address the identified issues at all of its care sites.

Bonnie Silva, director of HCPF’s Office of Community Living, told State of Reform the corrective action process could take some time, as HCPF is likely to conduct a root cause analysis for each of its findings. “We expect to correspond with them in the root cause analysis that demonstrates they have identified where in their existing policies and procedure there was a systemic failure that resulted in the inadequate care delivery,” she said.

5. Recommendations for improving primary care in 2022

The Primary Care Payment Reform Collaborative’s third annual recommendations report centers around implementing APMs, integrating BH, and improving health equity. Made up of plans, providers, and state agency representatives, the Collaborative’s recommendations help inform primary care policymaking in Colorado.

The Collaborative recommends a 1% increase in primary care spending for 2022-23—the majority of which it says should be “directed through non-FFS mechanisms” to promote value-based care. The report also suggests increasing primary care’s collaboration with public health agencies to improve prevention efforts and population health.