Colorado Behavioral Health Task Force considering recommendations for Blueprint of mental health reforms

The Colorado Behavioral Health Task Force (BHTF) is considering recommendations for reforms to the behavioral health system in Colorado that will be included in a Blueprint to be released later this summer.

The BHTF is administered by the Colorado Department of Human Services (CDHS) and was created by Governor Polis in April, 2019. The task force is comprised of 25 members, as well as three subcommittees with 25 members each. These include the subcommittees on the State Safety Net, Children’s Behavioral Health, Long-Term Competency, and the COVID-19 Special Assignment Committee.


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The recommendations being considered by the task force involve the creation of a “one-stop-shop for families and individuals” to receive behavioral health services.

Under BHTF’s framework, this service would be designed to enable patients to receive the support of a navigation professional trained to coordinate the search for provider, financial planning for services and any other supports related to social determinants of health, such as housing or food.

This work is more than system reform, it’s a vision,” said task force chair and CDHS Executive Director Michelle Barnes. “We have more than 100 people all working toward the same goal – to help Coloradans get the care they need, when they need it. While we may have different ideas on how to get this work done, I am proud of the work accomplished so far and am excited for the work to come.”

The BHTF says it is focusing on achieving:

  • Easy Access to Care: “The behavioral health system should provide access to services, including easily accessible options for care regardless of ability to pay, criminal history, location (rural Colorado or front range), payer source, culture, disability or other factors.”
  • Equity: “The behavioral health system should provide transportation and other solutions to connect individuals and families with needed services, provide housing options that prevent homelessness and rapidly re-house individuals when needed, provide access to food and clean water, and consider community resources including employment, childcare, and high-speed internet access.”
  • Whole-Person Care: “The behavioral health system must provide access to care which integrates physical and psychological health, provide culturally and linguistically responsive care, trauma-informed care, individual- and family-centered care, and emphasize all aspects of health, including wellness.”

A 2019 Colorado Health Access Survey found that more than 1 million Coloradans have a behavioral health condition. Additionally, 15.3 percent of Coloradans reported poor mental health in 2019, compared with 11.8 percent in 2017.

According to BHTF, the recommendations are the result of 14 statewide public testimonies and 16 community conversations the task force hosted to field suggestions for systemic reforms. BHTF is evaluating recommendations from its subcommittees and special assignment committee and says that it expects to have a final Blueprint of recommendations available late this summer.

We are pushing for reform and looking forward to partnering with all those at the table to make sure our systems and programs are easier to access and understand,” said COVID special assignment committee chair and Director of the Office of Behavioral Health Robert Werthwein. “We look forward to a people-first approach to behavioral healthcare in Colorado. I’m proud to have been part of this work and committee to challenge Colorado to be better when it comes to behavioral health care.”