Jan 22, 2024 - Politics

Colorado looks to make iMatter program a permanent solution to youth mental health

Illustration of the Colorado State Capitol with lines radiating from it.

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

๐Ÿ”” This is a regular feature designed to get you smarter, faster about what's happening at the state Capitol.

A signature effort to address Colorado's youth mental health crisis is approaching the end of the line. Now, state lawmakers are working to save it.

Driving the news: The iMatter program provides youth ages 18 and younger up to six free therapy sessions with a licensed clinician. Kids 12 and older can do so without a parent's consent.

  • The state program, touted by the Polis administration as a first-in-the-nation effort, expires June 30 when it is expected to run out of money.
  • The governor set aside $6 million in discretionary spending in his budget and a bill set for a hearing Wednesday would extend it indefinitely.

Why it matters: It works, advocates say.

By the numbers: About 13,900 kids and teens in 62 of the state's 64 counties have received help through November, with a total of 51,628 sessions conducted since it started in October 2021, according to the state Behavioral Health Administration.

What they're saying: "I think it is a critical piece in the tool belt. At this point in time, a kid somewhere in Colorado can get onto the iMattercolorado.org website, answer a few questions and get offered therapeutic support," said state Sen. Dafna Michaelson Jenet, a Commerce City Democrat who sponsored the initial legislation.

Yes, but: A mental health advocacy group believes as many as 20,000 Colorado children with major depression go without treatment. That's why it must continue, Michaelson Jenet says.

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