State Government Leaders Form a New State Behavioral Health Administration

Lt. Governor Dianne Primavera and the Colorado Department of Human Services (CDHS) recently held a press conference alongside other partners to announce the introduction of HB22-1278. The bill assigns specific duties to the Behavioral Health Administration (BHA), ensuring Coloradans can access behavioral health care regardless of where they live in the state or their ability to pay. The BHA will establish a people-first system that is accountable, equitable, and transparent.

The bill creates the Behavioral Health Administration as a state entity led by a commissioner who is a member of the Governor’s Cabinet. Governor Jared Polis appointed Dr. Morgan Medlock as Commissioner in January. Per the bill, the Behavioral Health Administration will have an Advisory Council of diverse members, primarily Coloradans with lived experience, to advise on the behavioral health system.

“For Colorado to thrive, it must have a robust, well-functioning, and person-centric behavioral health system,” said Lt. Governor Dianne Primavera. “Since 2019, our administration has worked to transform behavioral health in Colorado – the implementation of the Behavioral Health Administration as well as bills like HB22-1278 are important steps forward in ensuring that every Coloradan has access to the care and services they need, when and where they need them.”

By July 1, 2024, the bill requires the BHA to establish:

  • Universal standards for accessibility and quality of care
  • A behavioral health performance monitoring system
  • A comprehensive behavioral health safety net system
  • Regionally based behavioral health administrative service organizations to ensure every region in Colorado has accessible and high-quality services; and
  • A statewide behavioral health grievance system.

“The Behavioral Health Administration will be instrumental as we seek to build a behavioral health system that is equitable, transparent, and most of all, people-first,” said Dr. Morgan Medlock, Behavioral Health Commissioner. “We are building on the foundations we laid during the Behavioral Health Task Force of 2019 and fulfilling our promises to the people of Colorado.”

Sponsors of the bill, Representatives Mary Young and Rod Pelton, Senators Cleave Simpson and Pete Lee, and members of the Behavioral Health Task Force Executive Committee, Executive Director Michelle Barnes of the Colorado Department of Human Services, Executive Director Kim Bimestefer of the Colorado Department of Health Care Policy and Financing, Commissioner Michael Conway of the Division of Insurance and Deputy Manager Barbara Drake of Douglas County, were also in attendance.

The Colorado Department of Human Services (CDHS) is tasked with establishing a new Behavioral Health Administration (BHA) by July 2022 and housing it through November 2024 at which time CDHS will recommend to the General Assembly if it should remain within CDHS or move to another state agency.

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