DENVER (Nov. 10, 2021) — Gov. Jared Polis has approved $19.7 million in emergency discretionary funding to secure 64 private hospital beds for inpatient competency services as the Colorado Department of Human Services, Office of Behavioral Health (OBH) responds to record demand for competency evaluations and restoration services.
With the additional beds, OBH aims to serve 150 individuals over the next year and significantly reduce the backlog of pretrial detainees waiting in jail for competency services. The waitlist has grown to nearly 360 individuals due to an increase in court orders as well as admissions delays caused by the COVID-19 pandemic over the past year. The Department is currently receiving an average of 375 orders for competency evaluations per month compared to an estimated 175 per month before the pandemic.
“We are heartbroken by the long waitlist and are using every tool at our disposal to keep up with demand,” said Robert Werthwein, director of OBH. “We are grateful to Gov. Polis for helping us address this crisis. By expanding our inpatient capacity, we can ensure more people get the treatment they need in an appropriate clinical setting.”
In addition to the 64 beds, Polis approved $250,000 in emergency discretionary funding to provide medication-prescribing services to stabilize individuals waiting in jails across the state. Another $270,000 will go toward housing assistance and case management services for 40 individuals reentering the community.
OBH provides forensic examinations and behavioral health treatment and psycho-education for those ordered to competency evaluations and restoration services, respectively. Competency can be raised at any point during a criminal case and refers to an individual’s current capacity to participate in a legal proceeding. Inpatient restoration services can take place at the Colorado Mental Health Institute at Pueblo, one of three OBH-contracted, jail-based restoration programs or at a private hospital contracted by OBH.
In March 2019, CDHS reached an agreement that resolved an eight-year-old federal lawsuit over wait times for court-ordered competency services. The agreement requires the Department to provide treatment for people in jail waiting for services, expedite inpatient services for Coloradans experiencing a serious mental health episode and expand community-based services.
Deputy Director of Communications