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Colorado kids in dire need of mental health care are being sent out of state

Children's Hospital Colorado, Colorado Springs

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (KRDO) -- The lack of resources and beds for children in the state is forcing Children's Hospital Colorado to send kids in dire need of mental healthcare out-of-state for treatment. In Colorado, health officials are responding to around four child suicide attempts a week.

"Currently we're actually shipping kids, our own kids in need, out-of-state to get care. So, at a time when they would benefit most from being in a place where they have family, support structures and familiarity is the exact moment when we are making them leave all of those things," Heidi Baskfield with Children's Hospital told 13 Investigates.

Colorado kids are being sent to any state that has the capacity to care for them, including Florida and South Carolina.

Lawmakers in Denver have been debating the Behavioral Health Recovery Act bill that would currently provide $12.5 million in funding for youth mental health care. Health officials say they need millions more to really address the growing problem.

"We think in order to address this crisis we need an additional $10 million that specifically addresses increasing bed capacity. There need to be more beds that serve these kids in the state of Colorado," Baskfield said.

The major hospital system said $7 million of that funding could open as many as 40 residential treatment and therapeutic foster care programs within the next 3 to 6 months.

"For the kids we serve, for our own children, we have to better," Baskfield said.

For more on SB21-137, click here. The bill is currently under consideration.

Chelsea Brentzel

Chelsea is an investigative reporter for KRDO NewsChannel 13. Learn more about Chelsea here.



  1. There are 111 beds in Children’s Hospital Colorado Springs. Might be good to ask the hospital how many of those are filled right now and if there is something that prevents them from moving these kids to another floor instead of another state.

    This looks as if the hospital is shipping kids to Florida in the middle of a family crisis so they can more effectively lobby the state to pass this funding bill. I sure hope that’s not the case, maybe the spokesperson can clarify what it is about mental health-designated hospital beds that mean you can’t convert other beds for a time — or why other hospitals in the area can’t take these kids. Why out of state? Memorial has 400+ beds, Penrose has 500+ beds. Even at the height of COVID there was very little sending patients out of state, and then it was nearby states, not South Carolina. I’d like to understand this more.

    1. Well. A Mental health patient is not kept in a hospital bed and does not get treated by a normal medical doctor. They reserve those for people/kids with medical problems, accidents, surgeries etc..
      Mental health is a whole different animal. You need counselors, psychiatrists, psychologists and other that specialize in mental health. So different facilities, different doctors and specialists than a hospital. Be like saying well have have dentists available why cant they perform heart surgery…. they are doctors right???

      1. Thanks for trying to clarify.

        If they are talking about capacity in separate facilities outside of the hospital, I’m still not sure why that can’t be taken care of in-house until the demand reduces. If it is about being short on specialists, they need to stop talking about capacity. The $10 million they say they need would not pay extra staff.

        ‘”We think in order to address this crisis we need an additional $10 million that specifically addresses increasing bed capacity. There need to be more beds that serve these kids in the state of Colorado,” Baskfield said.’

      2. I’m also not sure it’s accurate that they are talking about capacity in facilities outside the hospital, as they do have inpatient for mental health in pediatrics — kids with mental health needs are “kept in a hospital bed” at Children’s. Length of stay is apparently up to 10 days.

        I’m not unsympathetic to the situation for the families or the extra burden for the hospital, but as I said I have worked in situations where nonprofits need to increase funding and the two alarming stories about children with mental health problems have been released from what seem like hospital spokespeople right when legislation for increased funding is under consideration. I get how people justify using the suffering of children to increase funding — we have to do it, or there will be even more suffering — but I think this kind of thing reduces the credibility of our health care administrators. Just be straightforward. Everyone wants to help kids in this situation, you don’t have to play games and manipulate stats.

  2. I also find it strange that we are using a statewide statistic — four cases a week in all of Colorado — to argue that Children’s in Colorado Springs is overwhelmed. A hospital built to serve local children can’t handle one or two child suicide attempt admissions a week on a temporary basis? Could we have some information on why that would be the case? How many would they be able to handle?

    In addition, it would be good to know how long this trend has been in place. If we have had 8 weeks of 4 admissions a week, that’s more than 30 admissions in 2 months. But if we have had 2 weeks with 4 admissions each, but the norm is 1 admission every three weeks, then that means 8 admissions in 2 months, which is very different.

    As a former writer for a nonprofit, I’m feeling like this is a statistic carefully crafted to spin a narrative. These kids are important, let’s be straightforward and figure out how to best serve them instead of using their difficulties to make a more dramatic press release during a time when a bill is before the legislature.

  3. Put them to work. A long day of physical exercise will take care of any dumb thoughts.

  4. “”We think in order to address this crisis we need an additional $10 million that specifically addresses increasing bed capacity. There need to be more beds that serve these kids in the state of Colorado,” Baskfield said.”
    Sorry, Governor Polis is using any additional money for his million dollar “lottery” bribes to get people to take the COVID vaccine. He likes to claim he is all for mental health, but his actions say otherwise.

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