What State Leaders & Community Advocates Are Saying About Laws to Protect Colorado’s Economy & Health

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Recently, in Thornton, Denver, and Aurora, Governor Polis joined Lt. Governor Dianne Primavera, bill sponsors, health care providers, and behavioral health leaders to sign new laws to save Coloradans money on healthcare, reduce the cost of prescription drugs, continue building and sustaining Colorado’s healthcare talent pool and workforce, helps keep Coloradans safe and enhances our thriving economy, and strengthen the continuum of high-quality behavioral health services to help all Coloradans thrive.

Gov. Polis signed new laws to save Colorado’s nursing workforce money on professional license fees – up to $85 per year (HB22-1298) and make historic investments in growing a highly-skilled healthcare workforce for the future (SB22-226) at North Suburban Medical Center in Thornton. Here is what health care leaders are saying:

“Senate Bill 226 aligns with CDLE’s work to support a strong healthcare talent pipeline through investments in healthcare apprenticeships and other work-based learning models. We are committed to working with the Community College system and technical colleges to advance apprenticeships and work-based learning across healthcare professions,” said Joe Barela, Executive Director of the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment.

“As an executive and a nurse who has served in many disaster management roles throughout my career, and most recently on the frontlines of COVID-19, I know firsthand how important staffing and resources are to providing high-quality, life-saving care,” said Hollie Seeley, President & CEO of North Suburban Medical Center. “Our people are our top priority — it is critical that we retain our workforce who have so bravely served patients during these extraordinary times. We appreciate the support of the state to make this type of investment in our people and facilities, and I am confident that we can make equitable health care changes to better our system for a healthier tomorrow.”

“SB 226 creates a pathway for current clinical healthcare providers to advance their knowledge and skills, as well as the opportunity for new Coloradoans to join our essential healthcare workforce,” said Dr. Robin Wittenstein, CEO of Denver Health. “This investment in people is critical not only for hospitals like Denver Health but for our employees and future employees as they work to advance their economic mobility. We were proud to support this legislation.”

“Even before the pandemic, Colorado faced shortages in critical entry-level healthcare positions, and our colleges are committed to filling these gaps through affordable, accessible training,” said Dr. Landon Pirius, Vice Chancellor for Academic and Student Affairs at the Colorado Community College System. “We are grateful to Governor Polis and Senators Jaquez Lewis and Rankin and Representative Mullica for prioritizing legislation that makes historic investments in students and in our programs so we can bolster our work to transform lives and train the next generation of healthcare leaders.”

Here is what sponsors and primary care leaders are saying about bills signed to help primary care physicians better meet the behavioral health needs of Coloradans (HB22-1302) and cut costs for people seeking affordable and accessible preventive care from family doctors in their communities (HB22-1325):

“We applaud our state legislators and the governor for recognizing the critical importance of integrating physical and mental health to achieve improved outcomes, reduced costs, and better access to care to address patients’ needs.  HB22-1302 includes the necessary elements to enhance the goal of improved access to better care:  funding for clinics to invest in the changes needed, training and support for clinics to adopt integrated care, and support for the business processes to assure sustainability when the grant funding expires,” said Allyson Gottsman, Practice Innovation Program, Department of Family Medicine School – CU Anschutz Medical Campus.

“Family physicians celebrate the passage of these three bills because we want our healthcare system to be more affordable, more equitable, and more accessible for communities across Colorado,” said Erica Pike, Director of Policy & Government Relations at the Colorado Academy of Family Physicians (CAFP).

“HB 22-1325 is an exciting evolution in our commitment to recognizing the value that primary care contributes to health and healthcare and paying them for the value of care they deliver.   Empowering the Division of Insurance to achieve alignment among health plans and Medicaid and to adopt value-based payments that compensate for demonstrating high-value care,” said Allyson Gottsman, Practice Innovation Program, Department of Family Medicine School – CU Anschutz Medical Campus.

“Access to quality behavioral health services, including psychiatric and addiction care, has been a challenge in Colorado for many years – a problem that has been dramatically exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. The Colorado Psychiatric Society and Shatterproof applaud the passage of this legislation because it will increase access to evidence-based, quality care across our state, normalize and de-stigmatize treatment for mental health and substance use disorders, and expand the capacity of our current workforce without compromising quality of care, including for rural and traditionally underserved communities. Colorado ranks last out of every state in the country for the highest prevalence of mental illness and the lowest rate of access to care for adults. HB 1302 and HB 1325 will help address the devastating impact of the behavioral health crisis in Colorado by improving access to affordable care,” said the leadership of the Colorado Psychiatric Society & Shatterproof.

Here is what leaders are saying about the new law to save employers and Colorado patients money on prescription drugs (HB22-1370) and ensure Coloradans can depend on their health care coverage:

“We appreciate the Governor signing HB1370, and we hope it is the first of successive bills over time that will stop insurance companies from limiting access to vital provider-prescribed medications by the use of step edits,” said John R. Corboy, MD, Professor of Neurology, University of Colorado, School of Medicine & Director, Rocky Mountain MS Center at the University of Colorado.

“The passage of HB-1370 is a huge win for the 62% of Coloradans living with chronic conditions who need consistent, high-quality care to lead happy, healthy lives. They also need to be able to count on their health coverage. HB-1370 will lower out-of-pocket costs for prescription medications and improve access to care, which is why it has the support of a coalition of over 60 organizations. Thank you to the bill sponsors, Colorado legislators, and Gov. Polis for supporting this commonsense legislation which will make health coverage more dependable and affordable,” said Sara Froelich, Executive Director of the Chronic Care Collaborative.

“For many Coloradans – and especially those living with chronic conditions such as epilepsy –their health and often their lives depend on access to dependable, affordable health insurance and prescription medications. However, all too often hidden, confusing, and unfair aspects of health insurance have left patients facing treatment denials or unaffordable out-of-pocket costs. We are delighted with the passage of this bill as we believe it will improve the healthcare landscape for people with epilepsy and other chronic conditions, and thank you for your support, said Sarah Klein, CEO of Epilepsy Foundation of Colorado & Wyoming. “On behalf of the nearly 60,000 Coloradans living with epilepsy, the Epilepsy Foundation of Colorado & Wyoming offers our gratitude to Governor Polis and to bill sponsors Rep. Iman Jodeh, Rep. Emily Sirota, Sen. Janet Buckner, and Sen. Faith Winter for their commitment to making healthcare more affordable and more dependable.”

“The National Hemophilia Foundation is profoundly grateful to the Colorado Legislature and Governor Jared Polis for the passage of HB1370, which will be signed into law today. Those who live with chronic disease require access to affordable and dependable health care in daily life – particularly when dealing with complex and rare bleeding disorders. This legislation represents a significant advance in health equity for all Coloradans,” said Perry Jowsey, Executive Director of the National Hemophilia Foundation – Colorado Chapter.

Here is what leaders are saying about bills the Governor is signing to provide support for community-based programs that improve behavioral health outcomes for children, youth, and families across the state (HB22-1281):

“One of the main goals of the Behavioral Health Administration is to co-create a people-first behavioral health system that is available to all Coloradans. These grant programs will allow communities and regions to fund new services or programs and expand existing ones. The funds will also help our workforce, ultimately strengthening our safety net. This program is critical to the BHA’s efforts to reimagine behavioral health care in our state so that we can meet individual and community needs,” said Dr. Morgan Medlock, State Behavioral Health Administration Commissioner.

“The National Alliance on Mental Illness applauds HB22-1281 for its focus on equity and inclusion.  This grant program creates new partnership potential in every corner of the State to leverage dollars into meaningful, measurable access to behavioral health,” said Ray Merenstein, Executive Director of the National Alliance on Mental Health.

At Fort Logan, Gov. Polis signed into law expanded access to inpatient and residential treatment options (HB22-1303) for Coloradans seeking behavioral health care. Here’s what leaders are saying:

“This bill is pivotal in building out a continuum of behavioral health services that meets the needs of all Coloradans. We are using every resource available to us to serve Coloradans, and this bill recognizes that people with serious mental illness need longer-term treatment and stabilization services in their communities. I was incredibly proud to serve as a member of the Behavioral Health Transformational Task Force and am now thrilled to see those hours of debate and conversation turn into real action that benefits real Coloradans,” said Michelle Barnes, Executive Director of the Colorado Department of Human Services.

“My hope is that this is just the beginning of addressing the lack of residential psychiatric beds in Colorado for people who have a serious mental illness,” said Patrice Marqui, Board Member, Larimer County Behavioral Health Technical Advisory Committee (TAC).

“I’m so thankful for the work led by Representative Judy Amabile on this bill in the CO Assembly.  It will make a down-payment on the debt that is owed to Coloradans who have suffered for years from lack of life-saving behavioral health services in the midst of a mental health crisis experienced themselves or experienced by a loved one,” said Virginia Gebhardt, Colorado Foundation for Universal Health Care. “Corporate-run health insurance has never provided behavioral health services on par with other medical health services and it never will. The additional behavioral health beds funded by this bill will save lives and will help provide behavioral health services on par with other medical health services, as is required by law. This is a big step toward health care justice for Coloradans.”