Last week, a landmark program that will expand access to mental health and substance use services for youth launched in Colorado. I Matter is a one-of-a-kind initiative that provides three free counseling sessions for all Colorado youth.
Introduced by Representative Michaelson Jenet, House Bill 21-1258: Rapid Mental Health Response for Colorado Youth was created to support Colorado youth who have been hit hard by the trauma and isolation of the COVID-19 pandemic. In June 2021, Governor Jared Polis signed bipartisan legislation that dedicated $9 million in one-time funding to the program. It is also funded through the Colorado Department of Human Services and the Office of Behavioral Health. The program is currently funded through June 30th, 2022.
Since its introduction in April, The Kempe Foundation has been actively advocating alongside other organizations and legislators to implement this essential legislation. The Kempe Center’s Dr. Steven Berkowitz and the Foundation’s advocacy team supported Rep. Michaelson Jenet through the formulation of House Bill 21-1258. We were also part of a select group of stakeholders, including Children’s Hospital Colorado, who met with the Office of Behavioral Health following its passage.
“This bill was very important to our team,” said John Faught, Executive Director of Public Policy at the Foundation. “Children’s Hospital Colorado’s State of Emergency in youth mental health made the need for expansion of these services abundantly clear. We worked hard to get this legislation passed and we are thrilled that this program can finally deliver essential services to youth across the state.”
To utilize this program, parents and youth ages 18 or younger – or 21 or younger if receiving special education services – can access the I Matter website to take a confidential survey about their mental health. Once the survey is complete, they can schedule up to three free sessions with a licensed behavioral health clinician, primarily online or through telehealth services.
By identifying and treating the mental health needs of children and youth across the state, Colorado is investing in the future health and wellness of everyone in our community.
The Kempe Foundation is proud of the team of advocates who brought this legislation to life.
Learn more at https://imattercolorado.org/about.html.