$450 million in ARPA funds to transform behavioral healthcare across Colorado
Back in August 2021, Gov. Polis established a Behavioral Health Transformation Task Force Interim Subpanel with the purpose of convening regularly to address behavioral healthcare needs in our State, and to make recommendations on how to direct $450 million toward that effort. The State was awarded this large sum through federal American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds.
I was honored to be selected to serve on the Task Force Interim Subpanel, along with my colleague Dr. Lesley Brooks. This group worked tirelessly to find ways to improve access and equitable care through data-driven decisions and applying evidence-based treatment philosophies. Ultimately, the Behavioral Health Transformation Task Force Interim Subpanel recommended the priorities listed below and during the last legislative session, funding was appropriated for the following programs/services:
- $90 million for the Community Gap Grant program, which provides grants for local governments and nonprofit organizations to implement community-based programs to fill gaps in the continuum of care
- $72.7 million on the Behavioral Health Care Workforce, which focuses on reducing workforce shortages through improved recruitment to the profession, internships, expanding school loan repayment, and bolstering professional development opportunities
- $119 million to provide Residential Beds across the state for Adults, Youth and Families to ensure urgent behavioral health care needs can be met appropriately
- $62 million toward Diversion from the Criminal Justice System for those involved in the criminal justice system who also have behavioral health needs. This includes bolstering medication-assisted treatment for opioid use disorders during incarceration and following release
- $35 million to Health Care Practice Transformation to integrate behavioral health and physical health
- $12.2 million for Care Coordination which will focus on training treatment system navigators and reducing administrative burdens
- $11.1 million to Behavioral Health Care Service for Children to expand school-based care, increase the number of mental health professionals in schools, and train primary care doctors in behavioral health care standards
- $5 million for development of a culturally responsive behavioral health care facility for Colorado’s Native American Tribes
- An additional $43 million will be dedicated to:
- The I Matter program, which provides free counseling for our youth
- Significant investment in purchasing Naloxone—the life-saving drug used in overdose situations
- Additional funds for the domestic violence prevention program
This remarkable and unprecedented investment in behavioral healthcare in our state demonstrates the commitment to improving lives all across Colorado. I am so proud to have played a role in developing the recommendations that were passed through the approval of 12 separate bills.
I am pleased to know that these efforts will assist us here in Larimer County as we work with local governments and other nonprofits to begin to transform our system into one that serves as a model in Colorado and attracts and retains a high-quality workforce.
Yours in good health,
Michael G. Allen, MBA, LCSW, CAS