The Behavioral Health Administration (BHA) is a new cabinet member-led agency within the State of Colorado, housed within the Department of Human Services, and is designed to be the single entity responsible for driving coordination and collaboration across state agencies to address behavioral health needs. The BHA is instrumental in achieving the State's vision to have a comprehensive, equitable, accessible, affordable, and effective continuum of behavioral health services that meets the needs of all people in Colorado in the right place, at the right time, to achieve whole person health and wellbeing.
The BHA became operational on July 1, 2022 with the passage of Colorado House Bill 22-1278 which officially established the duties of the BHA. Implementation is underway and is expected to be a multi-year, phased project, including ongoing partner and community engagement. The BHA is currently operating within the Department of Human Services until a permanent location is determined by the General Assembly on or before November 1, 2024.
All people in Colorado deserve to experience whole person health
Behavioral health services in Colorado are accessible, meaningful, and trusted
Co-create a people-first behavioral health system that meets the needs of all people in Colorado
- TRUTH: Being transparent and accurate when addressing the people of Colorado
- EQUITY: Naming root causes of injustices and allocating the necessary resources to support desired outcomes
- COLLABORATION: Working in partnership to realize a holistic behavioral health vision
- COMMUNITY-INFORMED PRACTICE: Integrating evidence-based guidance with lived expertise
- GENERATIONAL IMPACT: Engaging in meaningful and thoughtful action to create a new legacy
Our Commitment to Support Diversity, Equity & Inclusion
We, the Colorado Behavioral Health Administration, are devoted advocates of whole person health - a concept we believe is uniquely defined by each person as they navigate their individual lived experience. We acknowledge that some populations have not only been underserved, but have faced greater barriers, harm, and lack of access to necessary behavioral health services based on their identity/identities. Therefore, we commit ourselves and our inter-agency work to address social and structural determinants of behavioral health while coordinating comprehensive care for every person in Colorado. We exist to ensure everyone has equitable opportunities to achieve mental wellness, so we hold ourselves accountable for creating meaningful outcomes across the state – for you, for your loved ones, and for generations to come. Regardless of severity of need, ability to pay, disability, languages spoken, geographic location, racial or ethnic identity, socioeconomic status, sexual orientation, age, or gender identity, we believe in and advocate for all people in Colorado having:
- Comprehensive, effective, and equitable care across their lifespan.
- Preventive and responsive supports – whether you are the recipient of care or a caregiver – that are reflective of your needs as they evolve over time.
- Clear guidance on how to access care when, where, and how you need it.
- Trauma-informed and culturally and linguistically responsive care.
- Affordable access to high-quality behavioral health services outside of emergent care or the criminal justice system.
- Interactions with a behavioral health workforce dedicated to the transformation of mental health service delivery practiced with cultural humility.
In addition to the BHA equity statement above, we encourage you to read the Equity Proclamation shared on May 1, 2022 as a joint effort between the BHA, Mental Health Colorado, Governor Polis, and other state agencies.
The following is intended to provide clarity on the connections and distinctions between the Behavioral Health Administration and Department of Human Services' Office of Behavioral Health.
Office of Behavioral Heath (OBH): OBH is within the Department of Human Services and provides strategy, oversight, monitoring and operation of Forensic Services and the Colorado Mental Health Institutes (CMHI-FL and CMHI-P). OBH will remain the administrator and authority for these services. OBH will continue to oversee facilities as new group homes and beds are established as a result of recent legislation.
Behavioral Health Administration (BHA): The BHA is a new cabinet member-led agency within the State of Colorado, housed within the Department of Human Services and is designed to be the single entity responsible for driving coordination and collaboration across state agencies to address behavioral health needs. The community behavioral health programs that previously existed within OBH will now be housed and administered by the BHA. These are statewide behavioral health programs such as crisis services, SUD treatment, care coordination, and other community mental health and substance use services.
BHA Commissioner Medlock will collaborate closely with Department of Human Services Executive Director Barnes and the OBH and BHA teams to address shared challenges in behavioral health—particularly as they relate to Forensic Services and the Mental Health Institutes. Specifically, the BHA will work with Forensic Services and the Mental Health Institutes to:
- Build strong connections between Forensic Services, the Mental Health Institutes and the rest of the behavioral health treatment continuum—ensuring greater integration of services and support for specific populations.
- Elevate identified gaps in services and programs within the continuum and create solutions for specific population needs—especially for individual transitions in and out of the Institutes.
- Convene and problem solve with Forensic Services and the Mental Health Institutes on reducing barriers to community placement and create opportunities for diversion from forensic services and inpatient psychiatric care.
- Convene and problem solve with Forensic Services to build a comprehensive approach to competency assessment and restoration, building partnerships across agencies and local government.
- Improve accountability of providers as part of the Universal Contract and other standards to work in collaboration with the Institutes and Forensic Services to take individuals with justice involvement and competency needs and support high-quality care for individuals within the community following placement at the Institutes.
The Behavioral Health Task Force identified almost 150 recommendations to reform the state’s system. Those recommendations fell into six pillars that represent the foundation for a strong behavioral health system, all of which the BHA is addressing to achieve the Task Force’s vision:
- Access: All people in Colorado need access to a continuum of behavioral health services and to be connected to those services when they need them.
- Affordability: Care can be affordable when people get the care they need to stay healthy, administrative efficiencies are captured, and payment models incentivize positive outcomes.
- Workforce & Support: A high-quality, trained, resourced, culturally-responsive and diverse behavioral health professional workforce is needed in Colorado to deliver improved health access.
- Accountability: Collaboration across statewide partners needs to take place to ensure that all people in Colorado are receiving the quality care they need.
- Lived Expertise & Local Guidance: Engagement with community partners is critical to best meet local behavioral health needs together.
- Whole Person Care: All people in Colorado are best served when their social determinants of health are adequately addressed.
Click here to read the Behavioral Health Task Force’s full blueprint for reform.
One million people in Colorado are in need of behavioral health services. Based on the public testimonies from hundreds of people across the State, there are numerous barriers to behavioral healthcare. The current system is described by individuals as having inconsistent quality, cultural disparities, challenging access, poor accountability, unaffordable to many, disconnected and difficult to navigate. The BHA represents one of Colorado’s many steps towards strategic investments in improving the behavioral health system in the state.
Click here for a timeline demonstrating the comprehensive statewide work that has gone into establishing the BHA. Among the stops along this timeline are robust research and engagement efforts. Input from state agency staff, partners, and most importantly, community members, has been brought into every point of this work and will continue to do so.
Behavioral Health Task Force Recommendation
On April 8, 2019, Gov. Jared Polis directed the Colorado Department of Human Services to spearhead Colorado’s Behavioral Health Task Force. The mission of the task force was to evaluate and set the roadmap to improve the current behavioral health system in the state. In September 2020, the task force released its blueprint, as well as several other reports, that outline our vision for reform. The Behavioral Health Task Force unanimously recommended establishing a Behavioral Health Administration (BHA) to lead and promote Colorado’s behavioral health priorities, ensure that behavioral health services respond to the changing needs of communities, monitor state and local outcomes, and evaluate state efforts.
House Bill 21-1097
On April 22, 2021, Gov. Jared Polis signed Colorado House Bill 21-1097, which directs the Colorado Department of Human Services to establish a new Behavioral Health Administration (BHA) by July 2022 and temporarily house it through November 2024. Read the press release and watch the bill signing.
Plan for the Creation of the Behavioral Health Administration
An implementation plan to establish the BHA was submitted to the General Assembly on November 1, 2021. Click here to read the full report. The formation and implementation of the BHA is based on seven months of research and engagement with state agencies, partners and community members conducted by Health Management Associates (HMA) in partnership with the State of Colorado.
House Bill 22-1278
Colorado House Bill 22-1278 passed on Tuesday, May 10, 2022 with bipartisan support and officially established the duties of the BHA. Click here to read the full bill. The bill was sponsored by Representative Pelton, Representative Young, Senator Lee, Senator Simpson.