Colorado Mental Health Hold Task Force Recommendations

SB 16-169, which would have extended the time individuals in mental health crisis could be held in jails was vetoed by Governor Hickenlooper in June 2016. “We agree that appropriate mental health facilities are not always readily available to treat persons having a mental health crisis. While well-intentioned, we are concerned that SB 16-169 does not provide adequate due process for individuals.”

The Governor asked the Colorado Department of Human Services to form a Mental Health Hold Task Force charged with identifying how individuals in crisis will receive mental health services while preserving their fundamental rights. The 30-member task force was first convened in August 2016.

“I was honored to have an opportunity to serve on this Task Force, alongside so many experts and leaders in mental health and criminal justice reform,” said Vincent Atchity, Equitas Executive Director. “Equitas is strongly supportive of these recommendations. We are encouraged to see growing recognition among leaders in all sectors that relocating the responsibility for health care crises to health care provider systems–and away from law enforcement first responders and the legal system–is indispensable to the health, justice, public safety, and general prosperity of our state and nation.”

On December 31, 2016, the Colorado Department of Human Services produced the Task Force’s final report, including 8 recommendations summarized as follows:

  • End the Use of Law Enforcement Facilities for Mental Health Holds
  • Streamline Regulations and Establish a Stronger System of Accountability
  • Establish a Tiered System for Carrying Out Mental Health Holds
  • Ensure Network Adequacy
  • Expand and Extend the Behavioral Health Workforce
  • Create a Sustainable and Reliable Data Monitoring System
  • Ensure Proper Payment for Treatment of Individuals on Mental Health Holds
  • Identify and Pilot Client Transportation Solutions that Reduce the Costs, Stigma, and Trauma Associated with M-1 Transport

Read the full report here.

With the aim of ensuring proper mental health care that preserves a person’s civil rights, and rights to health care under the federal Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act, Hickenlooper commented, “we hope and expect that this effort will result in substantive changes to better the lives of Coloradans.”

The “diverse and talented” group included:

Irene Aguilar, State Senator

Vincent Atchity, Equitas Foundation

Lori Banks, Colorado Crisis Connection

Elicia Bunch, Centennial Peaks Hospital

Margaret Heil, Colorado Department of Public Safety

Jason Hopcus, National Alliance on Mental Illness

Julie Hoskins, Weld County Judge

Mark Ivandick, Disability Law Colorado

Cheri Jahn, State Senator

Chris Johnson, County Sheriffs of Colorado

Moe Keller, Mental Health Colorado

Tracy Kraft-Tharp, State Representative

David Krouse, Fruita Police Department

Randy Kuykendall, Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment

Lois Landgraf, State Representative

Elizabeth Lowdermilk, Denver Health

Denise Maes, Colorado ACLU

Beth Martinez Humenik, State Senator

Richard Martinez, Colorado Psychiatric Society

Fred McKee, Delta County Sheriff

Patrick McKinstry, Denver City and County Attorney’s Office

Matt Mortier, Colorado Department of Regulatory Agencies/Division of Insurance

Katherine Mulready, Colorado Hospital Association

Sharon Raggio, Mind Springs Health

Lenya Robinson, Colorado Department of Health Care Policy and Financing

Sally Ryman, Grand County Rural Health Network

Valerie Schlecht, Colorado Cross Disability Coalition

Cheryl Storey, West Pines Behavioral Health

Nancy VanDeMark, Colorado Department of Human Services/Office of Behavioral Health

Doug Wilson, Colorado Public Defender


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