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Colorado launches historic “I Matter” Program connecting youth to free counseling

Aubry Tucker

COLORADO, (KRDO)-- Mental health in young people across the nation has deteriorated over the course of the Pandemic. Nationwide, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reports that mental health-related emergency room visits among young people between the ages of 12 and 17 jumped 31% from 2019 to 2020. Now, the Polis-Primavera Administration is taking on the issue by launching the "I Matter" Program, aimed at connecting Colorado youth to free counseling sessions. The sessions are free to kids 18 and under, and 21 and younger for those receiving special education services.

The Colorado Department of Human Services, Office of Behavior Health (OBH), and other partners are behind the new program. Kids and parents can visit the I Matter platform to take a confidential survey about their mental health and schedule sessions with a licensed behavioral health clinician, primarily online through telehealth.

COURTESY: I Matter.

Governor Jared Polis signed on to the program with the bipartisan House Bill 21-1258, dedicating $9 million to the cause. The funding stands to help more than 10,000 young Coloradans.

“From our first day in office, behavioral health has been a priority for the Polis-Primavera administration. We recognize that the pandemic has amplified the need for mental health services, particularly for young people,” said Lieutenant Governor Primavera. “This program is the first of its kind in the nation and meets the urgency of the moment. By bringing mental health support directly to Colorado youth, we can help them take charge of their healing, build resilience, and help our state build back stronger.” 

Colorado is believed to be the only state in the country providing free therapy sessions to young people in need, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. The program provides up to 3 free behavioral health sessions for youth in Colorado and reimburses participating providers, which are licensed clinicians from agencies and independent contractors, according to the I Matter website.

“Providing free mental health counseling to students is an innovative and transformational way to meet young people where they are and get them the support they need. I’m excited to see this program become a reality after so much hard work, and I hope to soon see other states follow Colorado’s lead," said Representative Dafna Michaelson Jenet, D-Commerce City.

I Matter is recruiting providers from all over the state, with a goal of connecting kids with someone who shares their cultural background. Providers interested in participating in the program can email providers@imattercolorado.org.

State law allows kids 12 and older to consent to counseling without parent or guardian consent, so that age group can access the I Matter platform by themselves. Kids younger than 12 can still get help from the program, but they will need a parent or guardian's consent during the sign-up process.

The OBH will submit a report to the legislature January 1st, 2022, detailing how many kids they helped and the number of services provided. Program funding will expire on June 30th of next year.

If you or someone you know is in crisis or needs help dealing with one, call 1-844-493-TALK (8255) or text TALK to 38255 to speak to a trained professional. Learn more at coloradocrisisservices.org 

Article Topic Follows: News

Aubry Tucker

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