This State Task Force Wants To Overhaul How Behavioral Health Services Are Delivered To Young Coloradans

August 8, 2019
Children's Hospital pictured in Denver on Friday, April 15, 2005. The vice president of the hospital's Pediatric Mental Health Institute is co-chairing the state's Colorado Behavioral Health Task Force.Children's Hospital pictured in Denver on Friday, April 15, 2005. The vice president of the hospital's Pediatric Mental Health Institute is co-chairing the state's Colorado Behavioral Health Task Force.Ed Andrieski/AP Photo
Children's Hospital pictured in Denver on Friday, April 15, 2005. The vice president of the hospital's Pediatric Mental Health Institute is co-chairing the state's Colorado Behavioral Health Task Force.

From how dollars are spent to where services go, a new state task force is aiming to map the landscape of youth behavioral health services in Colorado, identify the gaps and recommend fixes.

The Colorado Behavioral Health Task Force, which has its first meeting Friday, is part of a larger effort launched by Gov. Polis earlier this year.

Co-chair Shannon Van Deman, with the Pediatric Mental Health Institute at Children's Hospital Colorado, would like to see the task force agree on a minimum level of services that should be available to children statewide, and then identify how to put that safety net in place.

"The reality for Colorado youth and families are that, depending on where they live, what they have access to from a behavioral health perspective, varies greatly," Van Deman said.

Lack of coordination is one of the big problems Van Deman sees across the state at the moment. She wants the task force to develop a "money map" to track public behavioral health funding and look for chances to be more efficient.

A child may be involved in lots of different systems, from schools to the courts to social services, without those entities talking to each other, Van Deman said.

"I think one of the reasons we've ended up where we are is that responsibility for the administration is so broken up," she said.

While Van Deman has her own concerns about the psychological safety net for Colorado's youth, she's eager to hear the points of view from the task force's other two dozen members.

"We probably need more of a lot of things," Van Deman said. "So I think it is going to be a matter of us as a task force prioritizing which of those issues ... we think are the most pressing."