Who is BHA?
The Behavioral Health Administration (BHA) is the state administration responsible for ensuring all people in Colorado have access to quality mental health and substance use disorder services, regardless of where they live, or ability to pay. BHA will help bring together community groups and governmental agencies to design a behavioral health system for all people in Colorado that is easy to access, and offers high-quality care that considers the whole person and their needs.
BHA impacts the behavioral health system by continuously improving the access to, and quality of, affordable care; reducing stigma so that the people of Colorado feel confident and comfortable seeking support and/or treatment for their mental health and substance use disorder; providing ways to find care that are free and confidential; engaging with diverse community groups and providers to expand services; and recruiting and retaining the workforce to support the people of Colorado.
"Behavioral health" refers to an individual's mental and emotional well-being and actions that affect an individual's overall wellness. Behavioral health issues and disorders include substance use disorders, mental health disorders, serious psychological distress, serious mental disturbance, and suicide and range from unhealthy stress or subclinical conditions to diagnosable and treatable diseases.
What BHA is called to do
- Lead and develop the state’s vision and strategy for behavioral health for children, youth, and adults.
- Establish a behavioral health safety net system throughout the state that must include services for children, youth, and adults.
- Develop a statewide care coordination infrastructure
- Oversee behavioral health providers across the state, and ensure those providers deliver high quality care.
- Work with providers and organizations to make sure a range of innovative services are available at the right time and in the right place for all people in Colorado to get the care they need.
- Expand services and impact areas and people who have been historically underserved.
This work and vision is informed by people with lived experience, advocates, experts in the field, providers, state agencies, and many others in Colorado.
The aim of BHA is to offer a holistic approach to well-being, recognizing that mental and emotional health are linked to physical health. We emphasize the importance of addressing the specific needs of individuals, whether they pertain to mental health, behavioral health, or addiction/substance use disorder.
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 and 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 equity statement above, BHA has an equity action plan. We also encourage you to read the Equity Proclamation shared on May 1, 2022, as a joint effort between BHA, Mental Health Colorado, Governor Polis, and other state agencies.
- Connections and distinctions between BHA and the Office of Behavioral Health
The following is intended to provide clarity on the connections and distinctions between the Behavioral Health Administration and Colorado Department of Human Services' Office of Civil and Forensic Mental Health (OCFMH), formerly the Office of Behavioral Health).
OCFMH operates Colorado’s two mental health hospitals, the Forensic Services Division and the Division of Mental Health Transitional Living. The office provides a continuum of mental health care that includes pre-trial restoration services, inpatient hospitalization and, soon, transition homes for community-based care.
Civil clients and patients are individuals who are committed by a civil court into the care of the Colorado Department of Human Services, whether voluntarily or involuntarily, because they have serious and persistent mental health conditions. OCFMH provides inpatient hospital care as well as transitional, community-based services, depending on the patient or client’s individual needs.
Forensic clients and patients include two types of individuals. One category is individuals who are charged with a crime and have a mental or developmental disability that prevents them from assisting in their own defense or rationally understanding the criminal court proceedings. The second category is individuals who have been charged with a crime but found not guilty by reason of insanity. OCFMH works across the justice system to provide evaluations, treatment and case management for these clients.
The BHA commissioner collaborates closely with the Colorado Department of Human Services to address shared challenges in behavioral health — particularly as they relate to Forensic Services and the Mental Health Institutes. Specifically, 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.
- Six pillars of a strong behavioral health system
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 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 and 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 and 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.
Read the Behavioral Health Task Force’s full blueprint for reform.
- How we got here
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. BHA represents one of Colorado’s many steps towards strategic investments in improving the behavioral health system in the state.
This timeline demonstrates the comprehensive statewide work that has gone into establishing 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.