Mental Health Pledge

Dear Members of the Colorado Legislature,

As Coloradans, we pride ourselves on being one of the healthiest states in the nation. However, we are currently in a mental and behavioral health care crisis. The problem is particularly acute for those who live in rural parts of the state. Eighty-two percent of Colorado’s psychiatrists are located in Colorado Springs and the Denver metro area. Twelve Colorado counties do not have a single licensed psychologist and 13 counties don’t have a hospital. In Colorado’s 47 rural counties, there is one behavioral health care provider for every 6,008 residents. Colorado is consistently in the top ten states with the highest rate of suicide, with rural counties consistently experiencing higher rates of suicide than Denver metro counties. We are 12th in the nation for prescription drug abuse and have higher than average rates of alcohol abuse. These facts make Colorado’s lack of mental health infrastructure all the more distressing and the crisis more urgent.

As a state, we cannot stand idly by while this crisis continues to grow. We must be proactively seeking solutions that increase access to mental and behavioral health care, increase treatment infrastructure, and aggressively pursue policies that will increase mental and behavioral health providers in rural areas. We must increase the health system’s capacity to provide inpatient treatment as well as outpatient and non-accute services. We ask that you increase resources for mental and behavioral health infrastructure and place a continued emphasis on workforce development to increase the number of mental and behavioral health care providers practicing in rural areas.