FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
May 11, 2022
Representative Judy Amabile: 303-517-4698
Sine Die! Rep. Judy Amabile Announces Progress
in Colorado’s 2022 General Assembly
Colorado’s 2022 General Assembly adjourns tonight, having passed historic legislation to address Colorado’s mental health crisis, increase resources for unhoused people, promote cleaner air through bold climate acton, make producers more responsible for plastic waste, protect communities from wildfires, launch universal preschool, provide tax relief to Colorado families and businesses, increase affordable housing, and infuse public schools with more resources, among other accomplishments. Highlights from Rep. Amabile’s work during the session include:
Improving Access to Behavioral Health Care
The legislature passed a slew of bills to improve behavioral health, a first step in turning the tide on Colorado’s high rates of untreated mental illness, suicide, homelessness, addiction, and incarceration.
“We have put more resources than ever before toward improving Coloradans’ access to mental health care,” Rep. Amabile said. “The state has finally allocated the magnitude of dollars and resources it’s going to take to begin addressing these devastating problems in earnest.”
The state is perennially resource constrained by TABOR, but this year was different. In the wake of COVID, the state received a massive infusion of Federal relief dollars and dedicated more than $450 million of those funds to improving access to behavioral health care. Rep. Amabile’s foremost behavioral health bill, HB22-1303, allocates nearly $70 million to fund 16 new adult residential treatment beds at the state mental hospital in Fort Logan, and up to 125 new residential care beds statewide.
“The bill creates more inpatient capacity for people who suffer from serious and persistent mental illness on the Front Range and in rural areas, which have little or no access to residential care,” she said.
To bolster the state’s mental health workforce, Rep. Amabile sponsored two bills, SB22-256 and HB22-1268, to improve conditions for therapists in private practice by reforming convoluted Medicaid payment systems.
Criminal Justice Reform for People with Behavioral Health Disorders
Rep. Amabile sponsored bills to make the treatment of people with mental health disorders in the criminal justice system more humane and effective.
“People with untreated, serious mental illness inevitably end up in the criminal justice system,” Rep. Amabile said. “I sponsored a package of bills that work to disentangle mental illness from jail and instead connect people with the treatment resources they need.”
- Her bill HB22-1386 to address Colorado’s daunting competency restoration backlog, which can keep mentally ill people who have not been convicted of any crime in jail for many months, even years, will allow those charged with low level offenses to be released back to their communities for competency services. The bill invests some $30 million to make progress on this obstinate backlog.
- Her bill to create pretrial diversion programs for people with mental illness, SB22-010, identifies eligible individuals for community treatment programs.
- Her bill to reform Colorado’s Not Guilty by Reason of Insanity policies, HB22-1061, will help people who have recovered from a mental illness return to their communities faster.
- Her bill to modernize Colorado’s involuntary civil commitment laws, HB22-1256, strengthens and streamlines mental health holds to protect patients and providers. With more than 50,000 mental health holds annually in Colorado, the statutes regulating these processes needed to be meaningfully updated.
Each of these bills will, with time, have the added benefit of opening up mental health care capacity, which will help others with serious mental illnesses access treatment before they become involved in the criminal justice system.
“As we build our capacity and workforce, we have to educate communities about the futility of addressing mental illness through the criminal justice system,” she said. These reforms will take time to make a difference; we need to stop criminalizing mental illness now.”
The Assembly passed legislation to improve all aspects of behavioral health care in the state, and every measure had Rep. Amabile’s enthusiastic support.
Increasing Resilience for Climate Disasters, Especially Wildfires
In the wake of thousands of Coloradans losing their homes in wildfires, the Assembly passed Rep. Amabile’s bill, HB22-1111, to improve the insurance claims process for victims of future wildfire disasters.
The bill was in part a response to her Grand County constituents, who have struggled to receive timely and fair payouts from their insurance companies after losing everything in the East Troublesome fire.
HB22-1111 gained strong bipartisan support because it was carefully crafted to bring relief to policyholders while ensuring affordable, accessible insurance for homeowners.
“We wanted to update the law so future victims of catastrophic wildfires receive payouts through a less onerous process,” said Rep. Amabile. “This bill makes it easier for victims of fires to file claims and receive payouts for lost property and living expenses, helping people and their communities get on the road to recovery faster.”
With officials warning that 2022 could be the worst wildfire year in state history, the new law will provide a measure of relief. But Amabile explained that a pressing issue — underinsurance — was not addressed in this bill. She plans to explore the issue during the interim.
Additionally, Rep. Amabile was the prime co-sponsor of a bill to ensure Colorado is better prepared for future climate-induced disasters and the resulting recovery.
SB22-206, Disaster Preparedness and Recovery Resources, will invest more than $50 million to support resilient and sustainable rebuilding and recovery for individuals, businesses and local governments. The bill creates the Office of Climate Preparedness, which will be tasked with coordinating disaster recovery efforts to better respond to natural disaster emergencies.
These two bills underpin a package of important wildfire prevention and mitigation legislation that passed the Assembly.
A Strong Step Forward to Improve Colorado’s County Jails
Rep. Amabile collaborated closely with criminal justice reformers, prosecutors, public defenders, County Commissioners, and, most importantly, County Sheriffs, to pass HB22-1063. The bill appoints a legislative oversight committee to recommend operational standards for Colorado’s County jails. The goal is jails that are more modern, humane and safe for prisoners and staff alike.
“In my second year as a state legislator, I’m proud to have worked closely with colleagues on both sides of the aisle to make significant progress on difficult issues.” Amabile said. “I ran for State Representative to make Colorado a better place for all, and the work that my fellow legislators and I have done this session gives me a sense of pride in meeting that goal. Now, let’s keep fighting for our future.”
Town Hall to Wrap Up the Session
Rep. Amabile will be joined by Senate President Steve Fenberg and Representative Edie Hooton for a virtual town hall to provide a wrap up of Colorado’s 2022 General Assembly. Constituents and members of the media are welcome. Please bring questions, concerns, and ideas for 2024.
Tuesday, May 17th | 5:30 – 7 pm
Rep. Amabile is running for re-election as a Colorado State Representative in HD 49. Learn more here.
For interviews relating to these bills or other work during the 2022 General Assembly, please contact Rep. Amabile: email@example.com or (303) 517-4698.