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Senate Committee Approves Cutter’s Bill to Offer Youth Mental Health Screenings

For the second year in a row, Children’s Hospital declared youth mental health a crisis in Colorado in 2022. A bill to support the mental wellbeing of Colorado’s students sponsored by Senator Lisa Cutter, D-Jefferson County, was approved by the Senate Health and Human Services Committee yesterday.

Local teens participate virtually in a youth summit and discussed issues surrounding mental health. Image by Brooke Gilmore.

HB23-1003 would allow school districts to offer mental health screenings in schools to help determine the mental wellbeing of students and continue the successful ‘I Matter’ program. The bill would permit public schools to participate in a voluntary mental health screening program for sixth through twelfth graders. The school would be required to notify parents of the date and time that the mental health screening is scheduled, the purpose, and information about the mental health screener.

Parents would have the option to opt their child out of participating, although students over 12 years old could still decide for themselves whether to participate, due to existing Colorado law.

“I’m proud that Colorado is a leader when it comes to providing accessible, affordable mental health care for our youth. But our kids are in crisis and we must do more,” said Cutter. “This bill will help identify issues early on so kids and families can get the support they need. I’m thrilled to champion additional mental health supports for Colorado’s youth.”

In 2021, Children’s Hospital Colorado declared a ‘State of Emergency’ for Youth Mental Health Children’s Hospital Colorado. On May 21, 2021, Children’s Hospital Colorado CEO Jena Hausmann, announced that a “State of Emergency” existed in youth mental health today, a first in the 117-year history of the hospital system. Then the crisis was reiterated in 2022.

The ‘I Matter’ program was created with the passage of HB21-1258 and expanded by HB22-1243. The program provides a mental health screening followed by six free therapy sessions to youth across the state and is available virtually and in-person. Students use a screening tool through the program’s website to match them with licensed mental health professionals that best fit their needs, including bilingual services.

HB23-1003 now heads to the Appropriations Committee for further consideration. For bills to become law, they have to get funding approval. You can follow the bill’s progress HERE.