Colorado Behavioral Health Task Force Recommendations ReportAug 1, 2020
In April 2019, Colorado Gov. Jared Polis directed the Colorado Department of Human Services (CDHS) to spearhead a taskforce to improve the current behavioral health system in the state, saying: “We can and must do better to transform our system for Coloradans living with a behavioral health condition so that they have access to affordable, high-quality, and patient centered care.” CDHS established this behavioral health task force with three subcommittees; membership represented diverse, multi-disciplinary, multi-sector, and balanced perspectives to propose solutions and recommendations to improve Colorado’s behavioral health system.
CDHS selected the Farley Health Policy Center (FHPC) to facilitate the subcommittees: the Children’s Behavioral Health Subcommittee, the State Safety Net Subcommittee, and the Long Term Competency Subcommittees. Building off prior work in Oregon and Virginia, the FHPC team employed a variety of stakeholder engagement techniques, facilitated meetings between July 2019 and June 2020; and produced recommendations for the overarching Behavioral Health Task Force. The task force then vetted and prioritized these for inclusion in the Report on the Remedy for Behavioral Health Reform: Putting People First, the State’s blueprint for behavioral health systems improvement.
Across the three subcommittees, aligned opportunities were identified to strengthen the behavioral health system in Colorado:
All Coloradans deserve equitable and timely access to a full continuum of behavioral health services with centralized navigation to support wellness in their own communities.
The delivery of high-quality behavioral health services is dependent on a high-quality behavioral health workforce.
A redesigned governance structure is essential to streamline the more than 60 financing sources for publicly funded behavioral health services, align state agencies, coordinate oversight, and reduce administrative burden to providers.
A focus on social determinants of health and specific populations is essential to support whole-person health for all Coloradans. Wellness does not exist in a vacuum, and attention must be paid to unique needs and environmental contributors to thriving communities.
The Long Term Competency Subcommittee worked with primary legislative sponsors, Senator Pete Lee and Representative Michael Weissman, on measures to improve outcomes for defendants who may be incompetent to proceed, resulting in the first piece of legislation derived from work of the behavioral health task force (BHTF). Senate Bill (SB) 20-181 was signed into law by Gov. Polis to help ensure individuals are not held in jail when facing low-level charges and competency is in question or when restoration is unlikely due to a severe disability regardless of the charge.The Blueprint for Reform and companion reports were delivered to the governor on September 23, 2020, with the potential to transform Colorado’s behavioral health system. The extensive stakeholder involvement across the task force and the subcommittees to develop robust recommendations provides a strong foundation for continued commitment from diverse stakeholders and pragmatic leadership across Colorado to carry this work forward.