After a turbulent legislative session, with the legislature temporarily closed due to COVID-19 and the state facing a budget shortfall of $3.4 billion, many important wins are to be celebrated.

Four of the five opioid-related bills proposed by the Opioid and Other Substance Use Disorders Interim Study Committee  (HB20-1065, HB20-1017, SB20-007, SB20-028) passed the state legislature and were signed by Gov. Jared Polis.  HB20-1085 was vetoed by Go. Jared Polis on July 2. The office released the following letter.  See the infographic and summary of each of the bills below for more details.

Governor Polis signing of HB20-1411 in a signing closed to stakeholders for public health reasons due to COVID-19 (Photo courtesy Senator Brittany Pettersen’s Office)

While most of the fiscal items had to be removed because of the budget shortfall, key components in the bills remain. Highlights include:

  • insurance coverage of the continuum of substance use treatment,
  • updates to the civil commitment process,
  • removal of barriers to syringe access,
  • enrollment into Medicaid upon release from jail, and
  • modernization of the child abuse definition.

In addition, the Office of Behavioral Health incorporated several key elements of the Recovery Bill SB20-028 and Criminal Justice Bill HB20-1017 that could not be funded through the legislature into their federal grant submission, such as individualized placement services for employment, expanded peer coach training, rental assistance for recovery housing, and medication assisted treatment in jails.  The funds from this state opioid response grant will total up to $41,667,886 for two years. For more information about the Office of Behavioral Health’s State Opioid Response grant application, visit here.

Governor Polis’ bill signing of HB20-1411 to address behavioral health costs due to COVID-19 (Photo Courtesy Senator Brittany Pettersen’s Office)

The Joint Budget Committee initially reviewed significant cuts totaling nearly $44 million to past behavioral health bills as result of the budget shortfall. Fortunately, thanks to legislative sponsors bringing forth amendments to the long bill, funding for the Circle Program, Tony Grampsas Youth Services, Screening Brief Intervention and Referral to Treatment (SBIRT) services, opioid public awareness, provider education, and the Office of Health Disparities were all maintained. The in-patient residential waiver through HB18-1136 was at risk of a 12 month delay, but was preserved to go in to effect Jan. 1, 2021. In addition, $2.5 million for medication-assisted treatment pilot program, serving rural Colorado in SB19-001, was preserved from cuts.  More than half of the proposed budget cuts proposed by the Joint Budget Committee were salvaged (roughly $22 million) due to advocacy from key legislators.

Finally, a huge win was the development and passage of HB20-1411, introduced to address behavioral health costs due to COVID-19. $70 million was accessible to the General Assembly for use of the federal CARES Act funding. Legislators in the Senate and House advocated to ensure that a portion of these funds were allocated to behavioral health. Due to their quick organization and collaboration, $15.2 million was ensured for behavioral health. These funds are key for providing for unanticipated behavioral health costs due to COVID-19.

In total, $56,867,886 of new money is projected to come to Colorado for behavioral health over the next two years through HB20-1411 and the Office of Behavioral Health’s State Opioid Response Grant. While significant cuts to the behavioral health were proposed for review by the Joint Budget Committee, roughly $22 million was salvaged thanks to advocacy from legislators and constituents.

Bill Summaries:

Many Thanks!

The Colorado Consortium for Prescription Drug Abuse Prevention wants to thank all of the Consortium partners for your hard work, which contributed to these successes. We are grateful to the 232 individuals from 47 counties, who provided 374 policy recommendation for consideration. Many of these ideas were incorporated and passed into law.

We’d also like to thank the bill sponsors:

Senators:

Chair, Senator Brittany Pettersen (Jefferson): SB20-1411, SB20-007, SB20-028, HB20-1017

Senator Kevin Priola (Adams): HB20-1017, HB20-1085, SB20-028

Senator Faith Winter (Adams): SB20-007, HB20-1065

Senator Rhonda Fields (Arapahoe): SB20-1411

Senator Kerry Donovan (Chaffee, Delta, Gunnison, Hinsdale, Lake Eagle, Pitkin): HB20-1085

Representatives:

Co-Chair, Representative Chris Kennedy (Jefferson): HB 19-1009; SB19-008; SB19-227;

Representative Bri Buentello (Fremont, Otero, Pueblo): SB20-007, SB20-028

Representative Leslie Herod (Denver): HB20-1017, HB20-1065, SB20-028, HB20-1085

Representative James Wilson (Chaffee, Custer, Fremont, Park): HB20-007

Representative Tracy Kraft-Tharp (Jefferson): HB20-1411

Representative Dafna Michaelson Jenet (Adams): HB20-141