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New state behavioral health laws

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State legislators passed a slew of bills this year addressing mental health and substance use, most of which drew bipartisan support. Here’s a quick recap.

House Bill 1009

This bill, titled “Substance Use Disorders Recovery,” expands the state’s housing voucher program to include people with substance use disorders. It also requires that recovery facilities have a state license, and creates an advisory committee to figure out how to use settlement money the state receives from suing drug manufacturers.

Sponsors: Reps. Chris Kennedy, D-Lakewood, and Jonathan Singer, D-Longmont, and Sens. Kevin Priola, R-Henderson, and Brittany Pettersen, D-Lakewood

Signed by governor: May 23

House Bill 1044

“Advance Behavioral Health Orders Treatment,” according to advocacy organization Mental Health Colorado, “allows Coloradans to create a psychiatric advance directive to specify their preferred methods of treatment in the event of a mental health crisis that prevents them from making decisions for themselves.” 

Sponsors: Reps. Tracy Kraft-Tharp, D-Arvada, and Lois Landgraf, R-Colorado Springs, and Sens. Nancy Todd, D-Aurora, and Don Coram, R-Montrose

Signed: March 28

House Bill 1193

“Behavioral Health Supports For High-risk Families” provides access to intensive substance use treatment to women up to one year after giving birth, and creates pilot child care programs for women in treatment.

Sponsors: Reps. Leslie Herod, D-Denver, and Rod Pelton, R-Cheyenne Wells, and Sen. Leroy Garcia, D-Pueblo

Signed: May 23

House Bill 1269

The “Behavioral Health Care Coverage Modernization Act” is intended to strengthen enforcement of parity laws for both commercial insurers and the state’s Medicaid system, with the goal of making sure Coloradans can get mental health and substance-use help just as easily as physical treatment.

Sponsors: Reps. Lisa Cutter, D-Evergreen, and Tom Sullivan, D-Centennial, and Sens. Joann Ginal, D-Fort Collins, and Bob Gardner, R-Colorado Springs

Signed: May 16

House Bill 1287

“Treatment for Opioids and Substance Use Disorders” directs the Department of Human Services to implement an online tracking system showing available spots at mental health facilities and substance use treatment programs across the state. It also creates a grant program to add capacity for substance use treatment programs in underserved areas of the state.

Sponsors: Reps. Daneya Esgar, D-Pueblo, and James Wilson, R-Fremont County, and Sens. Pettersen and Priola

Signed: May 14

Senate Bill 008

“Substance Use Disorder Treatment in Criminal Justice System” requires county jails that receive state behavioral health funding to provide medication-assisted treatment. It allows people who had been receiving medication-assisted substance use treatment in a local jail to continue that treatment after being transferred to the state Department of Corrections. The bill also creates a simplified process for sealing certain drug felonies, and jumpstarts additional responses to addressing substance use in the criminal justice system.

Sponsors: Sens. Priola and Pettersen, and Reps. Kennedy and Singer

Signed: May 23

Senate Bill 10

“Professional Behavioral Health Services for Schools” aims to update and improve “the School Health Professionals Grant Program and includes an additional $3 million in time-limited funding to schools to increase the presence of school health professionals to support the behavioral health needs of students,” according to Mental Health Colorado. Funding for the program comes from the state’s Marijuana Tax Cash Fund.

Sponsors: Sen. Rhonda Fields, D-Aurora, and Reps. Barbara McLachlan, D-Durango, and Donald Valdez, D-La Jara

Signed: May 10

Senate Bill 013

“Medical Marijuana Condition Opioids Prescribed For” adds any condition for which doctors would normally prescribe an opioid to the list of “disabling conditions” that qualify for medical marijuana. Minors need the approval of two doctors, and can’t smoke their prescription on school grounds. 

Sponsors: Sens. Vicki Marble, R-Fort Collins, and Ginal, and Reps. Edie Hooton, D-Boulder, and Kim Ransom, R-Littleton

Signed: May 23

Senate Bill 222

“Individuals At Risk Of Institutionalization” creates incentives for providers who treat individuals with severe mental health or substance use disorders, and a “safety net system” to expand high-intensity behavioral health treatment and outreach.

Sponsors: Sens. Pete Lee, D-Colorado Springs, and Tammy Story, D-Conifer, and Reps. Esgar and Landgraf

Signed: May 20

Senate Bill 223

“Actions Related to Competency to Proceed” requires the Department of Human Services to develop an electronic tracking system for defendants whose mental state may not allow them to stand trial. It also requires DHS to convene a group of experts to create placement guidelines for referring defendants to restoration services, and work with a higher education institution to develop and provide training for mental competency evaluations.

This bill appropriates $6.5 million from the state’s general fund this year, and $9.1 million next year to multiple departments.

Sponsors: Sens. Lee and Gardner, and Reps. Mike Weissman, D-Aurora, and Landgraf

Signed: May 20

Senate Bill 227

“Harm Reduction Substance Use Disorders” explicitly authorizes schools to carry naloxone, a drug that can reverse opioid overdoses. It also allows hospitals to serve as syringe exchange sites and expands the household medication take-back program.

Sponsors: Sens. Pettersen and Julie Gonzales, D-Denver, and Reps. Kennedy and Herod

Signed: May 23

Senate Bill 228

“Substance Use Disorders Prevention Measures” requires certain health care providers to complete substance use education in order to renew their licenses. The bill prevents providers from accepting benefits tied to prescribing certain medications, requires opioid prescriptions to have warning labels, and creates grant programs for youths and families affected by substance use.

Sponsors: Sens. Faith Winter, D-Westminster, and Dominick Moreno, D-Commerce City, and Reps. Bri Buentello, D-Pueblo, and Singer

Signed: May 23

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