State lawmakers will consider a bill this week that aims to promote mental health crisis services in public schools by requiring hotline information on student IDs and offering outreach materials and services to schools.
The legislation (dubbed “Promoting Crisis Services in Schools,” number HB 22-1052) was introduced to the Colorado House of Representatives on Jan. 13 and assigned to Public and Behavioral Health and Human Services, where it’s due for a hearing on Tuesday, according to a history and schedule published on the Colorado General Assembly website.
The effort would add one more tool in the toolbox that local mental health agencies in the Roaring Fork Valley have long emphasized as a multifaceted approach to resources, services and support for people who are struggling.
“Definitely, it’s been a topic of conversation, especially again with the suicide that we had in the Aspen School District this year. … I think that this concept to me is us trying to figure out how to give lifelines to our youth who are struggling, and right now there’s so much going on in our world that I think it’s more important than ever,” said Kayla Bailey, the outpatient program director for Mind Springs’ Aspen location.
Colorado Crisis Services is the statewide agency whose phone number, website and text line would appear on student IDs if the bill makes its way to become a law. The organization also would be responsible for notifying schools that it can provide outreach materials that explain what services are available and how people can access those services; the bill language includes “the possibility of peer-to-peer counseling as part of the offered services.”
The bill could still link callers to local services because Mind Springs Health is contracted under Colorado Crisis Services for on-the-ground support for mobile crisis services and Mind Springs also holds the contract for crisis services in Pitkin County, according to Bailey.
That means people in Pitkin County who call the Colorado Crisis Services line might be connected to local Mind Springs clinicians on the mobile crisis team as needed, according to Bailey.
Mind Springs also holds the contract for school-based services in Pitkin County, and the crisis number is printed on business cards that MInd Springs hands out to students and families, Bailey said.
Putting crisis services information on student IDs won’t be a singular solution or a “fix-all” to the mental health challenges students are facing right now, but it could help by way of visibility, Bailey said.
“Overall, I think the more lifelines we can give them that may pop into their brain and these moments of crisis or hopelessness, or whatever they may be experiencing, the better off they’re going to be,” she said.
Michelle Muething, the executive director of the Aspen Hope Center, likewise sees the merit in more visibility for crisis services.
“I think any bit of resource is as good as people that are going to use it, right, or how they’re going to find it,” she said.
Printing resources on student IDs is one way to do it, Muething supposed; she also thinks that setting up pop-up reminders of crisis services information on school computers would be a different and helpful way to get the word out.
Aspen Hope Center also provides crisis services (plus education and prevention work) locally, but that number wouldn’t be printed on student IDs under the new legislation that specifies the state helpline as the go-to resource.
Muething said she would advocate to include Aspen Hope Center information in the outreach effort as well as state resources here in the Roaring Fork Valley, where the agency offers localized, boots-on-the-ground knowledge and experience. But she said she also recognizes the value of “standardization” in a statewide initiative like the one proposed in the bill, especially for places that might not have the same kinds of support networks and established agencies that the Roaring Fork Valley has.
“I very much lobby for local resources, but in the same token, when I go to other communities and other counties in the state, I realize that they don’t have the same thing our valley has with the Hope Center. … I do understand both sides,” she said.