Colorado Behavioral Health Task Force considers bold recommendations

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DENVER (July 29, 2020) - The Colorado Behavioral Health Task Force (BHTF) is considering bold and innovative recommendations to transform the behavioral health system in Colorado. The BHTF is administered by the Colorado Department of Human Services (CDHS) and was created by the governor.

The task force is focused on behavioral health care that puts people first, and is considering bold changes to how the state funds and delivers mental health and substance use services. The task force is discussing a one-stop-shop for families and individuals to find and get the care they need. This service will enable them to receive the support of a trained professional who will help Coloradans navigate finding a provider, paying for services and any other supports they might need like housing or food. Bold and innovative ideas and recommendations like this are centered on behavioral health care that supports the whole person and a no-wrong door approach to accessing care.

"This work is more than system reform, it's a vision," said task force chair and CDHS Executive Director Michelle Barnes. "We have more than 100 people all working toward the same goal - to help Coloradans get the care they need, when they need it. While we may have different ideas on how to get this work done, I am proud of the work accomplished so far and am excited for the work to come."

The task force is focusing on:

  • Easy Access to Care: The behavioral health system should provide access to services, including easily accessible options for care regardless of ability to pay, criminal history, location (rural Colorado or front range), payer source, culture, disability or other factors.
  • Equity: The behavioral health system should provide transportation and other solutions to connect individuals and families with needed services, provide housing options that prevent homelessness and rapidly re-house individuals when needed, provide access to food and clean water, and consider community resources including employment, childcare, and high-speed internet access.
  • Whole-Person Care: The behavioral health system must provide access to care which integrates physical and psychological health, provide culturally and linguistically responsive care, trauma-informed care, individual- and family-centered care, and emphasize all aspects of health, including wellness.

More than 1 million Coloradans have a behavioral health condition. To understand the scope of impact the behavioral health system has had on Coloradans, the BHTF hosted 14 statewide public testimonies, 16 community conversations, and spoke with Coloradans across the state about their recommendations on what to change in the system. The committee is now considering recommendations from its subcommittees and special assignment committee and expects to have a final Blueprint of recommendations available late this summer.

"We are pushing for reform and looking forward to partnering with all those at the table to make sure our systems and programs are easier to access and understand," said COVID special assignment committee chair and Director of the Office of Behavioral Health Robert Werthwein. "We look forward to a people-first approach to behavioral healthcare in Colorado. I'm proud to have been part of this work and committee to challenge Colorado to be better when it comes to behavioral health care."

On April 8, 2019, Gov. Jared Polis directed CDHS to spearhead Colorado's Behavioral Health Task Force. The mission of the task force is to evaluate and set the roadmap to improve the current behavioral health system in the state.

Media contact:
Madlynn Ruble, Deputy Director of Communications