Gov. Jared Polis signed several bills into law on Monday. One of them creates the Direct Care Workforce Stabilization Board to address low wages, long hours and other issues contributing to high turnover in the healthcare industry.
In addition to addressing that issue, Polis signed bills helping younger Coloradans, including a measure creating housing vouchers for foster children aged 18 to 26. He also signed a bill aimed at giving relatives of foster children temporary custody when it is in the child’s best interest.
Polis also signed a bill giving all children ages 12 and up access to free mental health screenings in school. The bill creates a mental health screening program in schools, much like hearing and vision screenings that children already receive. Children who need help would then have access to six free therapy sessions through the iMatter program, which the bill extended indefinitely.
The program is available to children across the state in all but five counties and 8,500 children have taken advantage of it.
The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Dafna Michaelson Jenet, a Democrat, has led the fight for better mental health care for children for years. She said those who are screened in school are six times more likely to follow through with therapy.
The screening and therapy would be protected by HIPAA would not be part of a student’s school record. Schools must notify parents of the mental health screening and if their child is found to be at risk of suicide or other harm, but it is up to the kids to take the screening and up to them to take advantage of the free therapy.
“If they’re going to confide in a therapist and then that therapist calls mom and dad at the end of the night, you’re never going to have another therapy session. So how do we create that environment where kids can have confidential therapy, where they can have their own agency participating in that therapy and that’s what this does,” said Jenet.
Suicide is the leading cause of death for Colorado children ages 10 to 19. In 2021, a survey found 17% of kids had seriously considered suicide, nearly 40% felt sad or hopeless for two weeks straight and 27% said they did not have an adult to go to for help.
If you’re thinking about suicide, are worried about a friend or loved one, or would like emotional support, the Lifeline network is available 24/7 across the United States. Your call is confidential and free.
Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255), or contact the Crisis Text Line by texting TALK to 741741. There is also a Veterans Crisis Line: 1-800-273-8255 (text 838255) and a Disaster Distress Helpline: 1.800.985.5990 (text TalkWithUs to 66746). You can also chat with someone online: suicidepreventionlifeline.org/talk-to-someone-now/
First, you’ll hear a message telling you that you’ve reached the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. You will hear a little hold music while they connect you with skilled, trained crisis worker who works at the Lifeline network crisis center closest to you.