Gov. Jared Polis (D-CO) announced in early April the creation of a new task force to evaluate and create a detailed plan to address behavioral health issues in Colorado.
Led by Michelle Barns, Executive Director of the Colorado Department of Human Services, the Behavioral Health Task Force accepted applications to fill 25 positions with people who have diverse perspectives on behavioral health.
Also, the task force requires several state and local departments to participate and provide relevant information.
Mental health issues affect every age group for a variety of reasons.
According to a Colorado Health Institute study on the state’s suicide trends in 2017, Colorado reached the highest number of deaths by suicide in history and is among the top ten states for the highest suicide rates in the nation.
Additionally, access to preventative and rehabilitative care is a major problem for those suffering from mental health issues, especially people from lower-income communities.
According to another report by the Colorado Health Institute, access to treatment is better. However, people continue to not get the help they need due to “costs, stigma, and difficulty of making appointments.”
Colorado’s Behavioral Health Task Force aims to directly address these issues.
In a press release, Gov. Polis said the new task force will “work with the legislature and relevant agencies” to “identify systemic gaps” and “adopt proven strategies” to achieve an “efficient, compassionate, and equitable” behavioral health program.
The task force will develop a “Behavioral Health Blueprint” by June 2020. The blueprint will outline the steps to deal with behavioral health in Colorado and communicate these goals to “stakeholders, service providers, and individuals.”
The creation of a Behavioral Health Task Force comes at the end of the 2019 legislative session, and legislation passed this session will serve as a foundation for the task force to build upon. For example, legislation focused on child and youth behavioral health, substance use disorders, and suicide prevention.
As behavioral health concerns continue to blight Colorado communities, the Behavioral Health Task Force aims to develop a sustainable approach to effective reform.