Working Together to Create Colorado’s Behavioral Health Administration (BHA)

Transforming Behavioral Health

One million Coloradans are in need of behavioral health services. Based on the public testimonies from hundreds of people across the State, there are numerous barriers to behavioral healthcare. The current system is described by consumers as having inconsistent quality, cultural disparities, challenging access, poor accountability, unaffordable to many, disconnected and difficult to navigate. The Behavioral Health Administration (BHA) represents one of Colorado’s many steps towards strategic investments in improving the behavioral health system in the state. 

As outlined in HB 21-1097, the creation of a Behavioral Health Administration (BHA) will result in a statewide vision, strategy and actions to ensure Coloradans have access to behavioral health services. It will be the lead entity, collaborating across state agencies, to ensure there is a transparent and accountable system in place that results in better outcomes for Coloradans.

Your Voice Matters

The creation of Colorado’s BHA is deeply rooted in the invaluable ideas, questions and comments we have heard from state agency staff, stakeholders and consumers. Click here for a dashboard highlighting the robust stakeholder engagement included in this work. We are grateful to those who have engaged in this work to date and encourage all Coloradans to join us on this journey toward making behavioral health care accessible, affordable and equitable for all Coloradans.

About this Page

We are committed to ensuring stakeholders are kept informed and involved throughout this process. This page features up-to-date information about implementation planning, frequently asked questions, opportunities to engage, and access to additional resources. The page will continue to be updated so please bookmark this link and check back often! For information on the broader Behavioral Health Reform efforts, including legislation, and to sign up for the “Constructing Change” newsletter, please click here

Please note, information on this page is based on a concept of the BHA as of September 2021. This BHA model will continue to evolve with additional feedback from stakeholders, direction from the Governor's Office, and through final authorization from the General Assembly through future legislation. Any resource implications will be considered as part of the annual budget process.

On the Horizon
  • Governor will launch a national search for a BHA Commissioner 
  • Continue engagement with stakeholders for seamless implementation
  • Draft BHA authorizing legislation for 2022 session with BHA functionality and fiscal note
  • Draft November update to the legislature  
  • Initiate implementation plan for developing the BHA with phased functionality 
  • Continue cross-agency collaboration and cross-functional efforts and federal fund maximization
  • Outline timeline for implementation of BHTF recommendations
  • Have BHA operational by July 1, 2022
Picture of family walking in a field during a sunset

More Information
What is the BHA?

The Behavioral Health Administration (BHA) will be the lead entity, collaborating across state agencies, to ensure there is a transparent and accountable system in place that results in better outcomes for Coloradans. 

Why do we need a BHA?

With over one million Coloradans in need of behavioral health services, we must strengthen our system—from prevention to recovery and beyond. The BHA represents one of Colorado’s many steps towards strategic investments in improving the behavioral health system in the state. It will take time to address the myriad challenges in our current system; however, the BHA will be instrumental in achieving the vision to have a comprehensive, equitable, accessible, affordable, and effective continuum of behavioral health services that meets the needs of all Coloradans in the right place, at the right time, to achieve whole person health and wellbeing. 

What do we envision the BHA will do for Colorado?
  • Lead the coordination of behavioral health efforts across agencies by creating shared goals, improving collaboration, driving accountability and transparency for a person-centered, outcome-oriented behavioral health system for ALL Coloradans. 
  • Provide an opportunity to streamline our overall system so that we are smarter about investing our dollars and more responsive to the needs of Coloradans.
  • Elevate the voice of individuals and family members with lived experience of behavioral health in Colorado
  • Improve transparency, cross-sector data, and stronger accountability of the system
  • Address behavioral health disparities with equity central to the mission of the BHA
  • Problem solve and implement solutions through collaboration and effective relationships
  • Engage the entire behavioral health system, including the commercial system from prevention to recovery and continue to shift intervention “upstream” to impact health early on
  • Enhance and focus on whole person care and improve the quality of care for complex populations
  • Strive to be a diverse, inclusive and equitable entity in vision, strategy and operations
Who has engaged in this work?

The State of Colorado, in partnership with Health Management Associates, a Colorado-based independent consulting and research firm, have led a robust engagement process to inform the creation of the BHA. This has included interviews, focus groups and open forums with state personnel, stakeholders and consumers. Click here for a project dashboard highlighting elements of the robust stakeholder engagement underway such as individuals engaged and diverse perspectives represented. 

HMA used a tiered discovery process to engage leadership, subject matter experts and others within the following select state agencies:​

State Agency Engagement
Used a tiered discovery process to engage leadership, subject matter experts and others within the following select state agencies:​

  • Colorado Department of Agriculture
  • Colorado Department of Education 
  • Colorado Department of Health Care Policy and Financing
  • Colorado Department of Higher Education 
  • Colorado Department of Human Services
  • Colorado Department of Labor and Employment 
  • Colorado Department of Public Health & Environment
  • Colorado Department of Public Safety 
  • Colorado Department of Corrections
  • Colorado Department of Local Affairs 
  • Colorado Department of Regulatory Agencies
  • Colorado Division of Veteran Affairs 
  • Colorado Judicial Branch
  • Colorado Workforce Development Council

HMA also utilized a number of data tools for quantitative data—supplementing and verifying accuracy with agency staff as needed.​

Stakeholder & Consumer Engagement
HMA has engaged various stakeholders and consumers via targeted focus groups and open forums including representatives from counties / local government, system advocates, hospitals, primary care, child advocates, Regional Accountable Entities (RAE), Community Mental Health Centers (CMHC), Managed Service Organizations (MSO) and Administrative Services Organizations (ASO), and consumers. A second open forum was conducted to connect directly with individuals, peers and family members with behavioral health lived experience. 

Summary of Themes & Voices
HMA conducted interviews, targeted focus groups and an open forum in April and May of 2021 to discuss draft models for how the BHA could be formed to best serve Coloradans. Click here for a summary featuring an overview of common themes, takeaways, quotes and questions from the engagement sessions. 

Learnings from Other States
HMA also interviewed six other states that have BHA structures to examine and understand lessons learned and identify potential BHA models that could serve as relevant structures for Colorado. States included Arizona, Indiana, Maryland, Nevada, Oregon and Washington.

Stakeholder engagement continues to be an essential component of this work. We encourage you to stay informed and involved!

What is the recommended BHA model?

The recommended governance model of the BHA is based on statewide research and engagement and includes:

  • BHA Commissioner, appointed by the Governor and a member of the Governor’s cabinet
  • BHA staff positions that will manage the core functions of the BHA
  • Cabinet members and state leadership in branches of government, implementing behavioral health efforts reflective of the demographic and geographic populations of Colorado 
  • Advisory Council & Workgroups that support consumers and local and statewide stakeholders in providing guidance and direction to the BHA

This work is only successful when we focus on coordinating care to treat the whole person. The BHA will build and sustain a behavioral health system that will work across payers, state departments and sectors. The BHA will partner with all Colorado state departments to ensure there is a collaborative and networked approach along the behavioral health continuum from prevention to treatment and recovery. A critical area of cross-agency collaboration will be the BHA relationship with Health Care Policy and Financing (HCPF) as the state Medicaid agency, and the Division of Insurance (DOI), as the regulator of private insurance. The BHA will also work with local governments, intermediaries, providers, and other key partners to generate solutions and build shared accountability for outcomes for Coloradans.

Where will the BHA be housed?

C.R.S.27-60-201 (HB 21-1097) specifically states that on or before July 1, 2022 the BHA will be established within the Colorado Department of Human Services. As the BHA becomes fully operational, it will remain part of CDHS until a permanent location is determined by the General Assembly on or before November 1, 2024. 

How did we get here?

Click here for a timeline demonstrating the great statewide work that has gone into establishing the BHA. Among the stops along this timeline are robust research and engagement efforts. The voices of state agency staff, stakeholders, and most importantly, consumers, has been brought into every point of this work and will continue to do so.

Additional details on key milestones and work done to date are outlined below.

Behavioral Health Task Force Recommendation
On April 8, 2019, Gov. Jared Polis directed the Colorado Department of Human Services to spearhead Colorado’s Behavioral Health Task Force. The mission of the task force was to evaluate and set the roadmap to improve the current behavioral health system in the state. In September 2020, the task force released its blueprint, as well as several other reports, that outline our vision for reform. The Behavioral Health Task Force unanimously recommended establishing a Behavioral Health Administration (BHA) to lead and promote Colorado’s behavioral health priorities, ensure that behavioral health services respond to the changing needs of communities, monitor state and local outcomes, and evaluate state efforts. 

Bill Signing
On April 22, 2021, Gov. Jared Polis signed Colorado House Bill 21-1097, which directs the Colorado Department of Human Services to establish a new Behavioral Health Administration (BHA) by July 2022 and temporarily house it through November 2024. Read the press release and watch the bill signing.

Technical Work & Proposed Solutions
Health Management Associates (HMA) was brought on in January 2021 to support the technical work to help inform the formation of the BHA. ​From January 2021 through July 2021, HMA led a three-stage change management process (Stage 1: investigation; Stage 2: Solutions; Stage 3: Implementation Planning) to understand the current state and how proposed solutions to create the BHA could impact stakeholders at all levels and most importantly Coloradans. HMA created model options and solutions for the Behavioral Health Reform Executive Committee and Governor’s Office for how the BHA could come together based on this technical work, and developed a proposed implementation plan to support those efforts. Click here for a project dashboard highlighting elements of HMA’s change management work. HMA is continuing to support the state in our BHA implementation efforts over the coming months. 

What happens now?

The plan for implementation is underway and is expected to be a multi-year, phased project, including ongoing stakeholder engagement. An implementation plan to establish the BHA will be submitted to the General Assembly on or before November 1, 2021. 

How can I get involved?
This work benefits from your voice, ideas, questions and contributions.
  1. Access the latest info & resources: Bookmark this page and continue to check in for the latest information on the project and process.
  2. Share your thoughts: Submit your ideas, questions or concerns via the feedback form.
  3. Spread the word: Use the communication toolkit to share information about this work with your colleagues, partners and community.
  4. Stay informed on all Behavioral Health Reform efforts: Visit the broader Behavioral Health Reform page for updates including legislation, to sign up for the “Constructing Change” newsletter and to join a work group. There is additional work underway beyond the creation of a BHA.

The State of Colorado and HMA will be leading and presenting at a variety of meetings throughout this project. The following are a selection of presentations that might be of most interest to state agency staff, stakeholders and consumers. 

Stakeholder Engagement: State Agency Staff Update
An update on the BHA was presented to state agency staff on September 14, 2021. This presentation included a review of the engagement done to date to get to a BHA concept model, what the current BHA concept model looks like, user case examples, highlights, and next steps.

Stakeholder Engagement: Summary of Themes & Voices
This presentation features an overview of common themes, takeaways, quotes and questions from HMA’s stakeholder engagement sessions in April and May 2021. This information has been shared with the Behavioral Health Reform Executive Committee and Governor’s Office to support their decision making on the formation of the BHA.

Medicaid 101
This presentation includes an overview of Medicaid, the nation’s public health insurance program for people with low income. The presentation features information about its federal-state partnership, how it has evolved in recent years, and how it is structured in other states.

BHA Change Management Project Overview
This presentation includes an overview of HMA’s approach to this work, research and data collection with state agencies and stakeholder, the project timeline, and opportunities to engage in this work and access resources.

Additional presentations will be added throughout the project. Please reach out to if you are looking for a specific presentation or meeting resource.
Resources for media

Frequently Asked Questions

Click here for the most up to date FAQs addressing common questions and providing correct information, organized by topic.

Media Inquiries

Please contact Lindsay Sandoval, Media Manager at the Colorado Department of Human Services Office of Behavioral Health for media-related questions and resources.