AURORA, Colo. – Colorado Access, a 501(c)4 nonprofit health plan serving the Medicaid and Child Health Plan Plus (CHP+) populations, hosted U.S. Senators Michael Bennet and Cory Gardner for an invite-only, bipartisan virtual townhall. The townhall focused on access to and the importance of behavioral health services in Colorado in light of the COVID-19 outbreak. During the event, senators and area health care leaders discussed the federal response through the CARES Act and shared how the COVID-19 outbreak is affecting the care Coloradans receive, specifically vulnerable populations served by Medicaid.
“Our country has faced a mental and behavioral health crisis for years, especially for our seniors, veterans, and young people. We have to do a better job confronting this crisis, which the pandemic has only made worse,” said U.S. Senator Michael Bennet. “Colorado Access is playing a critical role in making sure Coloradans have access to mental and behavioral health services, but they need our continued support to meet the growing need during this crisis. We will continue to push for more access to mental and behavioral health resources, to establish the three-digit national suicide prevention hotline, and to work together to end the stigma around mental and behavioral health.
With stay-at-home and safer-at-home orders affecting Coloradans throughout the state, increasing isolation for individuals and families continues to have a direct impact on mental health. Colorado Access helps coordinate access to behavioral health services and works with health care providers to make sure the Medicaid population can get the care they need. Senators also heard from a few of these health care providers, Clinica Family Health and the Mental Health Center of Denver, to ask questions and understand their experiences as a provider for larger Medicaid populations. Providers shared operational impacts from the COVID-19 outbreak, from employee furloughs to technological barriers patients now face in receiving care, as well as an increase in demand for mental health services.
“As we address the current public health crisis we are facing, it’s critical that we address the mental health crisis in our country as well,” said U.S. Senator Cory Gardner. “That’s why I’m fighting to increase funding for suicide prevention services and to establish the 9-8-8 national suicide prevention hotline, which will save lives and help more Americans in need receive critical mental health support. I thank Colorado Access for hosting this bipartisan townhall to raise awareness and discuss how we can provide solutions for mental health support in Colorado.”
The two senators have been working together in a response to the COVID-19 outbreak in Colorado. In addition to support of the CARES Act, Senator Bennet, Senator Gardner and Governor Polis requested additional monetary support for the state of Colorado to be available as flexible funding for state needs. They urged both House and Senate leadership to increase federal medical assistance percentage (FMAP) funding for state Medicaid programs as coverage and health services are expanded due to the rise in unemployment and an increase in those who qualify for service as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak.
“While the work still continues, the initial quick response and bipartisan effort from our U.S senators and governor has allowed Colorado to maximize resources that strengthens our health care system, even in times of crisis,” said Marshall Thomas, MD, president and CEO at Colorado Access. “Behavioral health can be overlooked, but the importance is clear – to strengthen health care infrastructure which ultimately puts Colorado on track to effectively return to strong, healthy communities.”
About Colorado Access:
Founded in 1994, Colorado Access is a local, nonprofit health plan that serves members throughout Colorado. The company’s members receive health care as part of Child Health Plan Plus (CHP+) and Health First Colorado (Colorado’s Medicaid Program) behavioral and physical health, and long-term services and supports programs. The company also provides care coordination services and administers behavioral health and physical health benefits for two regions as part of the Accountable Care Collaborative Program through Health First Colorado. Colorado Access is the state’s largest single entry point agency, coordinating long-term service and supports for Health First Colorado recipients in five Denver metro area counties. To learn more about Colorado Access, visit coaccess.com.