Gov. Jared Polis rounded out this week’s stimulus bill signings by enshrining into state law two pieces of legislation focused on mental health.
At a ceremony at Children’s Hospital in Aurora, Polis put pen to paper on House Bill 1258 and Senate Bill 239, bringing the total number of Colorado Recovery Plan bills that have been signed into law to 26. The governor has signed 23 bills from the $800 million package this week, leaving just over a dozen bills from the package still outstanding.
Polis opened the ceremony by signing the bipartisan HB 1258 from Reps. Dafna Michaelson Jenet, D-Commerce City, and Kevin Van Winkle, R-Highlands Ranch, and Sens. Janet Buckner, D-Aurora, and Rob Woodward, R-Loveland. The $9 million bill creates the Temporary Youth Mental Health Services Program, which will reimburse providers for up to three mental health sessions with a young person.
Speaking ahead of the bill signing, both Van Winkle and Buckner (as well as Woodward via a text to his Senate colleague) praised the legislation as among the most important and meaningful bills of the session.
"This will save lives directly; it will save lives in many different ways," Van Winkle said. "As Colorado transitions beyond the COVID-19 pandemic, the state's youth need the support of their parents, families, communities and mental health professionals beyond the school walls to address the pain, trauma and loneliness they are experiencing."
Michaelson Jenet added the bill will help address the "lasting scars" that could form in the aftermath of the pandemic.
"If we address them soon, they don't need to be lasting scars," she said. "We can get our kids the help that they need as quickly as possible and this piece of legislation ... is the pathway to do that."
Polis also signed SB 239, a measure from Democratic Sens. Chris Kolker of Centennial and Rachel Zenzinger of Arvada, and Reps. Judy Amabile of Boulder and Mary Young of Greeley. The bill aims to improve the 2-1-1 Statewide Human Services Referral System.
The bill appropriates $1 million to expand referral services authorized by the Colorado 2-1-1 collaborative to include referrals for behavioral health services and other resources in the state. By doing so, the 2-1-1 hotline will be able to connect more Coloradans with the mental health services they need. The bill additionally focuses on connecting Coloradans who are unemployed or who do not have health benefits to mental and behavioral health services.