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Colorado children can now undergo up to three free mental health counseling sessions through a program announced by the governor’s office on Wednesday.
The “I Matter” program is a response to a worsening mental health crisis because of the COVID-19 pandemic and is funded by $9 million from the Polis administration’s Colorado Comeback roadmap.
“We recognize that the pandemic has amplified the need for mental health services, particularly for young people,” Lt. Gov. Dianne Primavera said in a statement. “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.”
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Coloradans aged 18 and younger, or 21 and younger for those receiving special education services, can take a confidential online survey at imattercolorado.org that will assess their needs and then schedule 45-minute sessions with a counselor if needed. Most of that care will be through telehealth.
Children under 12 will need parent or guardian consent to participate, as required by state law.
The allotted funding is enough to serve 10,000 children, according to the governor’s office.
Research from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showed that the proportion of mental health–related emergency room visits among children increased by 31% in 2020 from 2019.
“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 state Rep. Dafna Michaelson Jenet, a Democrat from Commerce City who sponsored the bill that established the program.
The program is still recruiting providers, especially those from Black, Indigenous, Latino and LGBTQ communities. Interested providers can email [email protected] for more information.
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