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Colorado Department of Human Services invests $7.5 million to address homelessness and mental health

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DENVER (Oct. 30, 2023) — The Colorado Department of Human Services (CDHS), Office of Civil and Forensic Mental Health (OCFMH) has invested over $7.5 million since 2021 to treat and house individuals at the intersection of mental health and homelessness. The Fines Committee, which is funded through the fines CDHS pays for non-compliance with a consent decree, has provided funding for nine different housing programs to serve individuals in the competency system. In addition, OCFMH recently executed a nearly $300,000 contract with Abt Associates to determine the feasibility of creating a system to support individuals with serious mental illness through a collaboration between Colorado's behavioral health and judicial systems. 

The following programs received funding through the Fines Committee:

  • IMPACT (Intensive Monitored Preventative and Acute Competency Treatment) received $428,000 to provide housing with treatment and wraparound services for competency clients. The Fines Committee funds two houses for clients to live in, utilities, transportation, medication, business clothing for clients, food, toiletries, phones, operating costs, monitoring services (e.g., GPS ankle monitors, urinalysis, and service fees), two peer support professionals, a case manager dedicated to high-risk clients and a house manager.
    • This program serves the counties of Delta, Montrose, San Miguel and Montezuma. The program has the capacity to serve virtually every eligible competency client in the area. 
  • CBER, operated by WellPower, previously received $400,000 and provided Assertive Community Treatment and funding for housing options for clients who would have otherwise been homeless. 
  • Colorado Coalition for the Homeless received $1,500,000 to provide modified Assertive Community Treatment to 80 competency clients statewide.
  • Ananeo Housing has received $1,101,220 to provide housing and associated services to competency clients statewide. 
    • In September 2023, the program added 15 beds, bringing the total beds available to 40. 
  • SAFER Opportunities received $2,007,500 to provide housing and supportive services to competency clients who would otherwise be released into homelessness in Arapahoe County. 
  • Monarch Recovery Housing program received $953,074 to provide 24 beds of supportive monitored sober housing for competency clients in Adams and Broomfield counties.

Additionally, the Fines Committee has approved funding for the below programs, but they are not yet operational. 

  • Assisted Living of Aurora (ALA) Transitional Housing received $822,000 to provide bridge housing for individuals in the 18th Judicial District so that competency-involved individuals can be released from custody and begin receiving out-of-custody restoration, while the program helps them acquire public benefits that will enable longer-term community housing placement. 
  • San Luis Valley Recovery Housing received $313,762 to provide supportive, sober-living housing to clients who are undergoing outpatient restoration treatment from OCFMH. 
  • The Boulder County Sheriff’s Office received $10,000 for temporary housing support in the form of rent and ancillary items that will be provided to clients transitioning from jail to the community. 

“Providing funding for these programs will have a ripple effect across the mental health and justice systems,” said Leora Joseph, director of OCFMH. “We cannot solve the consent decree without addressing housing for Coloradans experiencing homelessness.”

Competency is a legal construct that refers to an individual’s capacity to function meaningfully and knowingly in a legal proceeding. CDHS, which houses OCFMH, was sued in 2011 for failure to provide timely competency evaluations and restoration treatment which has created a significant waitlist of pretrial detainees. CDHS has been subject to requirements resulting from the lawsuit since then and is currently under court oversight of a 2019 consent decree and is fined up to $12 million per year for non-compliance with the consent decree. The fines go into a fund to be distributed to programs aimed at eliminating the waitlist. 

“The fines are awarded, through a competitive review and application process, to programs that demonstrate the potential to make meaningful changes for people who come into contact with the competency system,” said Daniel Murrie, one of the Special Masters overseeing CDHS’ consent decree.

The Fines Committee consists of representatives from CDHS, Disability Law Colorado and the Special Masters. Programs with innovative ideas are encouraged to apply, as well as rural communities and agencies. The full list of programs sponsored by the Fines Fund and more information about the fund itself is available on this graphic

“Many of these programs help people with psychiatric illness and low-level charges transition out of jail, off the waitlist, and into structured treatment and housing,” said Neil Gowensmith, one of the Special Masters overseeing CDHS’s consent decree. “This kind of support is not only humane but also effective, decreasing the chances of return to the legal system.”

The CDHS Office of Civil and Forensic Mental Health (OCFMH) operates Colorado’s two mental health hospitals, the Forensic Services Division and the Division of Mental Health Transitional Living. The office provides a continuum of mental health care that includes pre-trial restoration services, inpatient hospitalization and transition homes for community-based care.

Media contact:
Jordan Saenz
Communications Manager
jordan.saenz@state.co.us
720.355.3657