Colorado middle and high schoolers could begin receiving annual mental health checks

If a student needs additional resources, they would be referred to state-run program offering free therapy sessions

Elliott Wenzler
The Colorado Sun
George Washington High School students participate in math classes taught by Dr. Joseph Bolz on Nov. 14, 2022.
Jeremy Sparig/Special to The Colorado Sun

The Colorado legislature is aiming to make it easier for youth across the state to access free therapy by creating a program in which kids sixth through 12th grade can get an in-school mental health assessment.

If approved by state lawmakers, House Bill 1003 would allow public schools to opt into the program, which would be run by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. Parents could opt their child out of the assessment, though children 12 or older would also be allowed to decide for themselves if they want to participate.

“We have to continue to destigmatize therapy,” said Rep. Dafna Michaelson Jenet, D-Commerce City, one of the lead sponsors of the bill. “This is one way to do that. The brain is part of your body, this is similar to having an eye exam, ear exam or scoliosis exam.” 

The idea would be an extension of the I Matter program, which was formed in 2021 and provides up to six free therapy sessions for youth in Colorado. The program has so far served nearly 6,000 students. House Bill 1003 aims to connect more kids to those free therapy services, Michaelson Jenet said.

If a student is found during an assessment to need treatment, their parents would be notified and given information about the I Matter resources. 

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