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Colo. governor seeks to overhaul mental health system


By Andis Robeznieks
Posted: January 10, 2013 - 6:30 pm ET
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Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper's state of the state address included a moment of silence for the 12 people who were shot and killed in an Aurora, Colo., movie theater July 20 and a call for a “comprehensive overhaul of the state's mental health system.”

“We have to do a better job of identifying and helping people who are a threat to themselves and others,” Hickenlooper said in his speech. “We ask you to pass legislation that will update civil commitment laws, make it easier to identify people with mental illness who are a danger to themselves and others and provide safer, more humane systems for their treatment.”

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Last month, Hickenlooper outlined an $18.5 million five-point plan to strengthen to the state's mental health system. It included establishing 24-hour “crisis stabilization services” providing mental health urgent care; developing a 20-bed, jail-based mental health “restoration program” in the Denver area; and enhancing community-based care which would include developing two 15-bed residential facilities for short-term transition from mental health hospitals and providing housing vouchers for “individuals with serious mental illness.”

Hickenlooper’s mental health overhaul also has information technology components. He calls for changing state laws so the Colorado judicial system can electronically transfer mental health commitment records to the Colorado Bureau of Investigation’s firearm-purchase background-check program, and to “develop a consolidated mental health/substance abuse data system.”

In his address, Hickenlooper also called for a “world-class health system” with an emphasis on prevention and a goal of making Colorado the healthiest state in the nation.

“Unlike most states, where healthcare reform has been a politically divisive fight, Colorado passed bipartisan health exchange legislation,” Hickenlooper said. “Consumers and small businesses will have an efficient and cost-effective way to obtain insurance.”

In the next legislative session, Hickenlooper said he looks forward to working on Medicaid expansion “in a way that increases value, reduces expenses and doesn't require additional general fund dollars.”

Hickenlooper also hailed recent job growth in Colorado and referenced the 500 jobs being created at the new Kaiser Pemanente information technology campus in Greenwood Village.


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