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'Too Complex, Too Difficult': Colorado Green-Lights New Agency To Reform Mental Health Services

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Office of Gov. Polis
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Last week, Gov. Polis signed two mental health bills into law, including one creating the Behavioral Health Administration.

With the passage of HB-1097, Colorado has taken a major step towards creating a new agency that will manage the state’s behavioral health care services.

Gov. Jared Polis signed the bill into law last week following the recommendation from Colorado’s Behavioral Health Task Force earlier this year that the state establish the agency as part of a larger effort to reform the system.

“What we've been hearing is it is too complex and difficult because we've been taking a Band-Aid approach over the years and Gov. Polis has asked the state to really take a look, take a step back and reform the system,” Robert Werthwein, a member of the task force, said.

Currently, at least 10 different state agencies manage over 75 behavioral health programs in Colorado, from crisis services to community clinics. The plan for the new Behavioral Health Administration is to reduce the administrative burden on providers, provide transparency around outcomes and spending, and eliminate fragmentation of services.

The bill requires Colorado’s Department of Human Services to submit a plan for creating the BHA by Nov. 1, 2021.

This step comes as mental health needs have increased during the pandemic, with a body of research indicating widespread stress, anxiety and loneliness. Colorado Crisis Services, the state’s 24-hour support line, has received record call volumes since last spring.

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