Southeast Health Group (SHG) participated in the Colorado Behavioral Health Council’s Day at the Capitol. This signature day for CBHC highlights the importance of Colorado’s community behavioral health system of which SHG is a part of. During meetings with legislators, SHG discussed mental health and substance use disorder needs with the hope of gaining support for local efforts geared towards creating better direct care opportunities for all Coloradans.
This year, SHG focused on the severe need to strengthen the system’s workforce through increased reimbursement, salaries, and retention strategies such as student loan forgiveness. This effort is in reaction to the drastic decrease in spending power providers have suffered for more than 20 consecutive years. This issue, as well as the lack of salary increases for behavioral health providers, has caused a shortage of qualified employees in the industry as a whole. It is crucial that efforts be taken to close this funding gap.
“Here in our rural communities, we feel the impact of this workforce shortage far more than our partners in the metro area,” said JC Carrica, chief executive officer at SHG. “It makes this year’s Day at the Capitol more important than ever. Support from the state can make a huge impact on the level of care we can provide our communities. We also had the opportunity to speak with legislators about ‘rural stress’ and the opioid crisis in our towns.”
Rural stress is a hot topic among communities based on agriculture. Low commodity prices, natural disasters, and international trade outlooks can dramatically affect the economy and well-being of the residents in these areas, resulting in the highest suicide rate of any other industry in the United States.
CBHC also advocated to increase opportunities to expand Mental Health First Aid, an eight-hour course which teaches the signs and symptoms of someone in a behavioral health crisis. Proposed legislation would appropriate funding to the Colorado Department of Education to contract for a train-the-trainer program designed to increase behavioral health training opportunities for K-12 educators and faculty. SHG is very pleased that this legislation will be a top priority as the bill, SB20-001, was the first to be introduced in the Senate in 2020.