Behavioral Health Task Force examines COVID-19 impacts

Hide Featured Image

DENVER (June 4, 2020) — Gov. Jared Polis has established a new committee within the state’s Behavioral Health Task Force (BHTF) that is examining the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on the state’s behavioral health system. The BHTF is administered by the Colorado Department of Human Services (CDHS) and was created by the governor. 

This COVID-19 Special Assignment Committee will publish an interim report outlining short- and long-term impacts on the behavioral health system, including access to and affordability of services. Members will also evaluate the behavioral health crisis response to COVID-19 and recommend improvements for future events.  

Beginning work in recent weeks, the new committee is chaired by the CDHS Office of Behavioral Health and the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment Office of Emergency Preparedness and Response, and is sponsored by Lt. Gov. Dianne Primavera. Members represent state and county governments, providers and consumers.

“This emergency has been especially challenging for the 1 million Coloradans who already struggle with behavioral health conditions,” said Michelle Barnes, executive director of CDHS. “This committee will help us understand how COVID-19 has affected Coloradans’ ability to access services and what we can do to prepare our system for any future crises. We know things like job loss, reduced hours, social isolation, closures of schools and businesses, and access to basic needs like food and housing have had a great impact on mental health and substance use.”  

Members are:

  • Yadira Caraveo, State House of Representatives
  • Cara Cheevers, Colorado Division of Insurance
  • Lila Cummings, Colorado Hospital Association
  • Curt Drennen, Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, co-chair
  • Daniel Darting, Signal Behavioral Health Network
  • Doyle Forrestel, Colorado Behavioral Healthcare Council
  • Camille Harding, Colorado Department of Human Services
  • Joy Hart, Colorado Department of Corrections
  • Brenda Heimbach, El Paso County Public Health Office
  • DeAnne House, Ute Mountain Ute
  • Cheri Jahn, Colorado Provider Association
  • Jan James, Larimer County Human Services 
  • Tracy Johnson, Colorado Department of Health Care Policy and Financing
  • Kim Nordstrom, Colorado Access
  • Carrie Paykoc, Office of eHealth Innovation
  • Rod Pelton, State House of Representatives
  • Susie Walton, Park County Human Services
  • Robert Werthwein, Colorado Department of Human Services, co-chair
  • Leon Wittner, consumer — parent
  • Anthony Young, Association of Black Psychologists

The directive comes as more Coloradans are seeking behavioral health support. Colorado Crisis Services, the state’s behavioral health crisis system, has experienced record-breaking volume this spring with more than 60 percent of calls concerning COVID-19, according to staff estimates. 

Nearly half (45%) of Americans report the coronavirus crisis is harming their mental health, according to a Kaiser Family Foundation poll. About one in five (19%) say it has had a “major impact” including about one-fourth of women (24%), Hispanic adults (24%), and black adults (24%). Large shares across demographic groups report that worry or stress related to coronavirus has had a negative impact on their mental health. In a Colorado survey conducted in April, among respondents that feel the coronavirus has had a negative impact on their mental health, 67% say they are very or somewhat concerned about the lasting, negative impacts to their mental health.

The committee will share its findings in late summer.

The Behavioral Health Task Force, which is comprised of more than 100 members, is charged with evaluating the current behavioral health system and developing Colorado’s “Behavioral Health Blueprint” to improve the current behavioral health system in the state, slated for release later this summer. The BHTF includes subcommittees focusing on the state’s safety net, children’s behavioral health and long-term competency. 

For more information, visit the BHTF website or follow us on Twitter: @ColoradoBHTF.

Media contact:
Madlynn Ruble
Deputy Director of Communications