Colorado budget cuts likely to affect behavioral health

According to the most recent revenue projections, Colorado faces an up to $3.4 billion budget shortfall for fiscal year 2020-21, and the Legislature and Gov. Jared Polis are in the process of making cuts that will affect all areas of state government, including programs for substance use prevention and treatment.

The Legislature’s Joint Budget Committee has identified a variety of cuts and reductions for all state departments aiming to reach the budget shortfall. In their first round of cuts, the JBC approved $700 million in cuts, including reductions to the following programs:

  • public awareness for opioid overdose prevention and prescription drug misuse campaigns,
  • SBIRT training program,
  • certified addiction counselor (CAC) scholarship program,
  • funds for high risk pregnant women,
  • SUD treatment services,
  • behavioral health crisis response public information campaign,
  • jail based behavioral health services, and
  • community transition services upon release from jail.

The JBC continues to make cuts, taking into account new forecasts and recommendations from the Governor’s Office of State Planning and Budget (OSPB).

The chair and vice chair of the Opioid and Other Substance Use Disorder Committee, Senator Pettersen and Representative Kennedy continue to work to limit cuts to mental health and substance use and are advocating for use of federal funds through the CARES Act to support unanticipated costs due to COVID-19.

All fiscal items in the 2020 proposed bills are being reviewed and amendments will be forthcoming to remove most of the fiscal notes. The aim is to allow these bills to continue and pass even if not receiving appropriations.

Meanwhile, the Colorado Department of Human Services, Office of Behavioral Health has been working to identify gaps in state funding and aligning its request for federal funding to fill those needs. For more information, visit OBH’s page about COVID-19.