As we head into the 2021 legislative session, we know this last year has been especially difficult for children and families and they need to be prioritized now more than ever. Due to the ongoing impacts of COVID-19, there is still uncertainty around the process and priorities of the upcoming legislative session. Although Colorado’s economy has shown marked improvement, the uncertainty underlying economic forecasts coupled with potential federal stimulus will determine just how much can be accomplished in this legislative session. With this in mind, and considering input from other stakeholders, the Kempe Foundation has identified a list of child-focused issues that may be considered by the Legislature this session and are of interest to the Foundation.
- Domestic Violence added to Children’s Code: Douglas County Human Services in partnership with Colorado Counties Inc is bringing forth legislation to define domestic abuse in the children’s code with the goal of capturing the emotional and psychological impact this behavior can have on children. The Kempe Foundation is part of a stakeholder group working on a draft bill.
- Child Protection Ombudsman: The Child Protection Ombudsman Office plans to pursue two bills this session. First, they would like to introduce legislation that will allow the Ombudsman Office to access data held by the Child Fatality Review Team at the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) so they can better address how to prevent child fatalities moving forward. The second bill would protect the Ombudsman Office and staff from having to disclose work products and also be subject to subpoenas to testify. We support both of these bill concepts.
- Marijuana: Smart Colorado and Blue Rising are collaborating on a comprehensive bill to put in place stricter limitations on both the medical and recreational marijuana industry. Although not finalized, the legislation will seek to cap potency at 15%, control products and prohibit the use of butane, propane, and other carcinogens in marijuana products, require toxicology for all suicides and overdoses and accidental deaths, prohibit marketing to children, additional packaging requirements, and likely other provisions as well.
- Behavioral Health: Access to behavioral health services is critically important, especially on the heels of the COVID-19 pandemic which has caused increased trauma for children and families. In April 2019, the Governor created the Behavioral Health Task Force (BHTF). The Taskforce was charged with evaluating and setting a roadmap to improve the behavioral health system in the state. In September 2020, the Behavioral Health Taskforce released their behavioral health blueprint which included over 150 recommendations and findings. A main component of their recommendations is the creation of a Behavioral Health Administration (BHA). The BHA would be established as a central organization that threads together behavioral health services spread across multiple departments. This is intended to reduce fragmentation within the system and create a single point of entry for the consumer, as well as reduce administrative burden for providers.
- Budget: Kempe also will actively engage and advocate for continued full funding of three programs the Kempe Center implements in partnership with the state: The Child Welfare Training System, SafeCare, and the CARENetwork.
The Kempe Foundation is committed to advancing child-focused policies. We will continue to provide important policy updates throughout the 2021 Legislative Session. To receive Kempe Advocacy Updates via email, please sign up here.