Committee to Evaluate, Improve Colorado’s Crisis System
By Nourie Boraie
The Colorado Department of Human Services (CDHS) today announced plans to convene a multi-stakeholder committee to provide recommendations to CDHS for upgrades to Colorado’s behavioral health crisis system.
“This is an opportunity to enhance the system and to hear from all who are affected by it,” said Reggie Bicha, Executive Director of the Colorado Department of Human Services. “Colorado Crisis Services has produced many good outcomes for the state of Colorado, and this is the time to make adjustments to ensure it is functioning as effectively as possible for people in need of these services, and for taxpayers.”
Gov. John Hickenlooper initiated “Strengthening Colorado’s Mental Health System: A Plan to Safeguard All Coloradans” in response to the Aurora theater shootings in July 2012. The creation of a comprehensive statewide behavioral health crisis care system for individuals, families and communities was a key component in the plan.
The crisis system in Colorado includes a 24-hour hotline staffed by professional counselors, a peer line, walk-in crisis centers, crisis stabilization centers and respite and mobile crisis services. The hotline launched in August 2014, and the on-the-ground aspects of the crisis response system opened in December 2014. From inception through October 2017, Colorado Crisis Services has provided 582,969 services. In October 2017, the crisis system provided 23,305 services.
Over the next six months, the committee will work to:
- Identify gaps in current service delivery or access.
- Address the use of data to demonstrate the effectiveness of the system.
- Increase system efficiencies for crisis services and improve mobile response in communities.
- Establish services and clinical standards to meet the needs of the intended population.
- Ensure that services are reaching those populations at highest risk of suicide including adolescents, adult men and veterans.
- Address licensing challenges and prioritize regional solutions for co-located and fully integrated services.
The final conclusions and recommendations from the committee will be compiled in a report by June 1, 2018. The committee will include the following members:
- Director of the Office Behavioral Health, CDHS, or designee (chair)
- Director of the Division of Community Behavioral Health, Office of Behavioral Health, or designee
- 1 representative from the current crisis hotline system
- 4 individuals representing community behavioral health centers or mental health centers
- 3 consumers/advocacy representatives
- 4 members of the General Assembly
- 1 representative from the Colorado Hospital Association
- 1 county human services representative
- 1 local public health representative
- 1 designee from the Department of Health Care Policy and Financing
- 1 individual representing law enforcement agencies
The committee is expected to convene subcommittees to provide different and necessary perspectives on the crisis system.
CHDS’ decision to evaluate the system comes as a series of upgrades are planned. Senate Bill 17-207, which was signed by Gov. Hickenlooper in May, provided $7.1 million to the Office of Behavioral Health to expand the crisis system and better equip law enforcement to respond to individuals in mental health crisis. In addition, the Long Bill allocated $2.6 million for Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion (LEAD) pilots to assist law enforcement with redirecting individuals to community-based services instead of jail.
The planned regional improvements will increase collaboration with local law enforcement, improve capacity to conduct face-to-face (including tele-health) assessments; ensure that walk-in centers, crisis stabilization units and acute treatment units are able to accept and triage individuals on emergency mental health holds; and expand local partnerships to ensure jails are not used as a placement option for individuals on emergency mental health holds.
Nourie Boraie is Deputy Director of Communications for the Colorado Department of Human Services.