Colorado’s Citizen Legislature – April 2023

By Doris Beaver ~

At present, the dearth of legislation pertaining to the “over 50  crowd,” means looking out over the total legislative “landscape” at different segments of the population.

Senate Bill 23-004:

The powers that be in this country have finally recognized the magnitude of the mental health crisis pervading almost every state of America, some even multiple times. SB 004 passed third reading in the Senate on February 16, and was taken up by it on February 21st.

The legislative declaration is titled “Employment of certain school-based therapists-legislation declaration-definitions”:  

  • In 2021, Children’s Hospital in Colorado declared a youth mental health state of emergency, and in 2022 said that conditions are worse;
  • In 2022, the Centers for Disease Control and prevention released a survey that found 44 percent of high school students reported that they felt persistently sad or hopeless during the past year and that schools are crucial partners in supporting the health and well-being of students 
  • The complex and time-consuming process for school-based therapists to receive a special service license from the Department of Education prevents schools and school districts from employing school-based therapists who might otherwise help students; 
  • School-based therapists are already licensed by various state boards in the Department of Regulatory Affairs; and
  • Students can be protected by requiring school-based therapists employed in schools to submit to fingerprint-based criminal history background checks, and to be supervised by mentor special services providers and administrators who are licensed by the Department of Educators. 

In this particular instance (except if noted), “eligible school-based therapist” means a person who meets the eligibility requirements described in subsection (4) of this section,  all as set forth in Article 245 of Title 12, and who is a:

  • Psychologist licensed pursuant to part 3, 
  • Social worker licensed pursuant to part 4, 
  • Marriage and family therapist licensed pursuant to Part 5, 
  • Licensed professional counselor licensed pursuant to part 6,

or 

  • an Addiction counselor licensed pursuant to Part 8, 

The legislative fiscal note also states that these professionals may be supervised by either a mentor in the professional field in which they are licensed or by a school district administrator. The fiscal note also opines that school districts are allowed to hire additional licensed mental health professionals, provided they comply with fingerprinting and background check requirements.

SB 004 provides that prior to employment, the school or a school district and an eligible school-based therapist will be required to comply with the requirements of Section 22-32-109.8, including the requirement for the eligible school-based therapist to submit fingerprints. 

SB 004 also provides that a school-based therapist providing services to a student related to the student’s individualized education program, as developed pursuant to Part I of Article 20 of this Title 22, such school-based therapist must have qualifications consistent with the student’s individualized education program. 

At first reading, this bill is written with GREAT WORDINESS, but after much reading and re-reading, in this writer’s opinion, not much has been left uncovered. 

Sponsors of Senate Bill 23-004:  Senators Dafna Michaelson Jenet, (D-Adams) 866-2945, and Mary Young (D-Weld) 866-2929; and Representatives Janice Marchman (D-Boulder and Larimer) 866-4853, and Sonya Jacquez Lewis (D-Boulder) 866-5291.

House Bill 23-1052: 

Older veterans and their advocates have long voiced feelings they cannot count on what was promised to them, but overall, treatment has improved in recent decades, when deplorable conditions at the Walter Reed Hospita in Washingtonl came to the public’s attention. 

The title of HB 1052 involves a requirement that a veteran who has individual employability status be treated equivalently to a veteran who has 100 percent permanent disability when determining eligibility for any state veterans benefit. 

HB 1052 concerns making conforming statutory changes, but is conditional on voter approval of a constitutional amendment to section 3.5(1.5) of Article X of the state constitution is what makes it complicated.   

The legislative declaration finds and declares that “when the United States department of veterans affairs (division) determines that a veterans with a disability has individual unemployability status, it means that the veteran has a service-connected disability or a combination of service-connected disabilities that are so severe that the veteran is unable to keep substantially gainful employment that supports the veteran financially.”

The analysis by the Legislative Council Staff is made under the assumption that “making ‘individual unemployability status’ equivalent to 100% disabled status in state law will not significantly affect any state programs or services for veterans, other than homestead exemption. 

The property tax exemption-qualifications of section 6, 39-3-204 of HB 1052 is where things get complicated, and any veteran planning to seek such an exemption should seek advice and help from an expert. Penalty for providing false information, returning incomplete or non-qualifying exemption applications are also included in the legislation, perhaps as a heads-up preventive measure (or could be an unwritten warning) which legislators are not wont to often afford recipients. 

HB 1052 passed third reading in the House on January 31st, but has languished since then. Typically, such previous languishing resulted in a similar bill being introduced in the other house and passed later in the session. 

Sponsors of House Bill 23-1052:  Representatives Bob Marshall (D-Douglas) 866-2936, and Gabe Evans, (R-Adams and Weld) 866-2943; and Senator Rhonda Fields (D-Adams, Arapaho) 866-4879.

Doris Beaver is a freelance journalist who writes from her home high in the Colorado Rocky Mountains on senior issues, politics, ethics and environmental issues, and is a member of the Society of Professional Journalists. Visit her website www.dorisbeaver.com, or e-mail her at beaver2097@yahoo.com (Note:  Temporarily yahoo address due to a computer glitch which is now being resolved.)

Leave a Reply