Monthly Archives: June 2021

Updates from Under the Gold Dome: End of 2021 Session

The 2021 legislative session wrapped up work on June 8, about a month later than the typical Sine Die adjournment date. This delay was due to the legislative recess taken from mid-January to February to ensure lawmakers and their staff could be vaccinated. There were 678 bills and resolutions introduced, 502 bills passed, and as of June 24, 326 bills have been signed by the Governor, who has exercised one veto. As The Kempe Foundation looks back on the session’s accomplishments, we’d like to thank our legislators for their tireless efforts in representing the people of Colorado and the many stakeholders and agencies that play an important role in the legislative process.

BUDGET

A combination of factors led to the state having significant revenue above expectations. State revenue came in well above the economic forecast and federal legislation brought in $3.8 billion in relief funds to the state government. This session, the legislature was able to restore the budget cuts made in 2020, provide additional funding to core areas of the budget, prepay future state obligations, and increase the end of year reserves to a historic level. Kempe programs including the CARE Network, Child Welfare Training System and SafeCare received full funding for FY 2021 – 2022.

LEGISLATION OF INTEREST 

The mental and behavioral health of our children and youth is a high priority in Colorado. The COVID-19 pandemic has brought Colorado to an inflection point in the care and well-being of our children and youth. They’ve suffered disproportionately from lockdowns, closed schools and general isolation. The trauma children and youth are experiencing is certain to have major, short- and long-term damaging impacts for them individually and for our communities, state and country.

We are already seeing negative impacts on our children and youth. The last week in May, Children’s Hospital Colorado (CHCO) declared a state of emergency for pediatric mental health as suicide attempts rise. The hospital is seeing three to four kids a week who have tried to kill themselves. The top overall reason children arrive in the emergency department is a suicide attempt. CHCO also reported that mental health emergency visits were up 90% in April 2021 compared to April 2019.

The crisis for our children and youth is not just a recent development because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Colorado Public Radio News in September 2019 reported on a study by the United Health Foundation that Colorado’s teen suicide rate increased 58% from 2016 to 2019. That increase was more than twice that of any other state.

The protection and well-being of Colorado’s children and youth were high priorities in the 2021 legislative session. The following bills were passed and signed by the Governor or awaiting his signature.

Behavioral Health

  • HB 1258: Rapid Mental Health Response for Colorado Youth
  • SB 154: Suicide Prevention Lifeline Network
  • HB 1097: Behavioral Health Administration
  • SB 137: Behavioral Health Recovery Act
  • HB 1317: Cannabis Concentrate Regulation

Early Childhood

  • HB 1304: Early Childhood Department and Systems

Child Welfare

  • HB 1248: Colorado Children’s Trust Fund Act
  • HB 1272: Supporting the Child Protection Ombudsman
  • HB 1099: Policies and Procedures to Identify Domestic Abuse

LOOKING AHEAD

Several legislative committees will meet prior to the 2022 session including an interim committee on school finance, a task force to recommend policies to spend federal stimulus dollars that provide economic relief and stimulate the economy, the Legislative Oversight Committee on Tax Policy, and two working groups on higher education issues.

The Kempe Foundation will be actively engaged over the summer and fall in agency and stakeholder work groups and interim committees addressing the forming of the Behavioral Health Administration, domestic violence taskforce, Colorado Children’s Trust Fund, Rapid Mental Health Response for Colorado Youth, forming of an Early Childhood Agency, and research and education related to THC potency in marijuana concentrates. We also have been approached by certain legislators to work with them on exploring legislation for next session regarding concerns they have about the protection and well-being of children and supports for families.

We will continue to provide important policy updates as we approach the 2022 Legislative Session. To receive Kempe Advocacy Updates via email, please sign up here.

 

Kempe’s Response to the ‘State of Emergency’ for Youth Mental Health

On May 25th, for the first time in its 117-year history, Children’s Hospital Colorado declared a “State of Emergency” for youth mental health. This declaration comes following the release of staggering statistics revealing a 90% increase in youth mental health emergency visits between April 2019 and April 2021.

These statistics give us a glimpse into the pandemic’s frightening impact on young people’s mental health. For the past two years, a persistent level of uncertainty and stress has impacted children and families across Colorado. The ability to feel productive and connected to the community has a significant impact on our emotional health. During the pandemic, these key components of mental health were taken away from us.

The pandemic exacerbated frustrations and anxieties in homes where these emotions were already high. Stressful conditions in conjunction with a marked increase in substance use has put Colorado’s children at risk. During times like these, the work of the Kempe Center is particularly salient.

The experts at the Kempe Center are uniquely positioned to address the urgent needs of this moment. The Kempe Center sits at the intersection of in-the-moment crisis response and building systems to intervene and prevent child abuse and neglect from happening. The traumatic effects of the pandemic are only starting to become evident. In order to support children and families across the state, medical providers, childcare facilities and schools must be prepared to respond to the signs and symptoms of trauma.

Long before we learned of COVID-19, the Kempe Foundation focused on funding work that interrupts the risks surrounding a child linked to childhood trauma. Our Kempe Center experts continue to develop and implement programs that prioritize a more holistic approach to supporting the health and wellbeing of children and families.

Here are some of the ways Kempe Center programs are responding to the State of Emergency for youth mental health:

Serving as an online and in-person resource center

Kempe works to connect youth, teens, families, medical and child welfare professionals, schools, and community partners to resources, tools, and best practices to prevent and treat child abuse, neglect, and trauma.  In addition to services provided by Kempe programs, the Center also provides information on how to access a variety of available community resources when abuse or neglect is suspected:

Trauma-Responsive Implementation and Practice Program (TRIP)

Led by Dr. Evelin Gomez, TRIP’s trauma-informed practice team provides training, coaching and consultation for educators and childcare professionals. These trainings are designed to increase capacity for childcare professionals in schools and care facilities to identify signs and symptoms of trauma and promote healing for children. As children return to school after a difficult year, equipping teachers and educators with this information is an important step to ensure student safety and success.

Stress, Trauma, Adversity Research, and Treatment (START) Center

The START Center is dedicated to providing optimal treatment for people of all ages suffering from the effects of loss, trauma, chronic stress and adversity. Kempe’s partnership with the START Center has played a key role in bringing mental health services to children and families who participate in Kempe Center programs. Throughout the pandemic, the START Center has seen a substantial increase in the number of practitioners and therapists needed to meet the needs of children experiencing multiple traumas – including COVID.

Child Abuse Response and Evaluation (CARE) Network

The Kempe Center was intentional about including behavioral health providers in the second group of trainees for the CARE Network. Accordingly, their training included the impact of the current COVID crisis. By having these conversations with our healthcare providers across the state, we are growing the community of healthcare professionals who can be a valuable resource when signs and symptoms of abuse, neglect and trauma are identified.

As we continue to witness the pandemic’s effects on youth mental health across the state, it is essential that we support the work of the Kempe Center. Experts at the Kempe Center are national leaders in research efforts to evaluate prevention and treatment programs that achieve measurable outcomes for the safety, health and well-being of children and their families. As is evident through Children’s Hospital Colorado’s state of emergency declaration, this work is particularly important today and needs immediate attention, as well as continued financial support.

When you donate to Kempe, you support our work to provide critical funding and support for doctors, social workers, researchers, trainers, policy teams and other professionals working every day to keep children safe and healthy. Click here to donate today.

To get in touch with the Foundation, contact Jon Kruljac, CEO at kruljac.jon@kempe.org. For more information about the Kempe Center, contact Mary Gangel, Marketing & Communications Manager at mary.gangel@childrenscolorado.org.

For the past 49 years, Kempe has promoted understanding, knowledge and best practices to prevent and treat child abuse and neglect locally, nationally and internationally. In 2022, the Kempe Center will celebrate its 50th anniversary. Learn more about the history of the Kempe Center and Kempe Foundation here.