Gov Affairs 2019 Priorities Preview GOVT-160148057-2019-01-Gov Affairs 2019 Priorities - Page 6

2019 POLICY AND ADVOCACY PRIORITIES Make the Behavioral Health System Accountable for Colorado’s Kids Colorado should be the best state in the nation for children and youth to live. Yet in our state, suicide is the leading cause of death for youth ages 10-24, and an estimated one out of every six teens has a diagnosable mental health condition. A recent national report ranked Colorado in the bottom half of the country for children’s behavioral health, based on prevalence of conditions and access to treatment. The status quo is not working. In order to do a better job of promoting kids’ healthy bodies and minds, the legislature must act boldly to transform how our state’s behavioral health system operates. Today in Colorado, responsibility and authority for children’s behavioral healthcare is dispersed among multiple state agencies and local governments. This lack of coordination, accountability and flexibility can lead to missed early intervention opportunities, duplicated services and more costly treatments in the long run. CHILDREN’S HOSPITAL COLORADO Advocating for Enhanced Behavioral Health at the Local Level Children’s Colorado has been increasingly involved in local advocacy efforts to garner additional resources for behavioral health services. We supported Caring 4 Denver, a local ballot measure in the City and County of Denver to fund $45 million a year in behavioral health and substance use programming and services. Voters overwhelmingly approved the Caring 4 Denver initiative with 70 percent of the vote. As implementation begins in 2019, we will push to prioritize children and youth in the allocation of resources. We will also work to boost local efforts in the City of Aurora, where voters passed a mill levy increase that generates new funds to hire more behavioral health professionals in Aurora Public Schools. Fortunately, solutions are within reach. Other states have dramatically improved their ability to address the behavioral health needs of children by establishing a centralized cross-agency governing body that ensures appropriate accountability, management and funding of the system. Children’s Hospital Colorado will partner with stakeholders to urge the legislature to create a “Children and Youth Behavioral Health Commission” composed of child-serving state agency leaders and an advisory body that includes families, community partners and behavioral health providers. Beyond this, the state should adopt standardized screening and assessments for children who may be at risk of a behavioral health condition, to increase the likelihood that children who need services are identified earlier. Colorado should also ensure that behavioral health providers use evidence- based practices for screening and diagnosis, and there is more that can be done to facilitate workforce recruitment and development. Recognizing that many of Children’s Colorado’s community partners are also working on behavioral health policy advocacy, we anticipate supporting a whole slate of bills this year that aim to secure better outcomes for Colorado children and families. 6 7