House to vote on bill to let mental health patients specify treatment preference

Posted at 12:05 AM, Jan 27, 2019

DENVER -- State lawmakers will vote Monday on a proposal that would allow mental health patients to specify the treatment they prefer and to designate someone else to make decisions on their behalf.

House Bill 19-1044 won unanimous approval Wednesday in the House Public Health Care & Human Services Committee, and is now up for a third reading on the House floor.

Evan Silverman supports the measure. The 43-year-old Denver man testified in favor of the bill. He said he first saw a psychiatrist when he was in 5th grade and by the time he got to high school, he was experiencing minor depression.

"My third year in college, I got paranoid, returned to Denver and was diagnosed with bipolar disorder," he said.

"The hardest part of my journey," he added, "was when I couldn't fall asleep for two consecutive nights. I was looking at my watch and every second was like an eternity."

Silverman told Denver7 that a doctor at University Hospital recommended electro-convulsive therapy. He said, "it worked." But the next time Silverman had a psychotic episode, his doctor was out of the country on vacation. His insurance company told him to go to a different hospital.

"It was a disaster," Silverman said. "I ended up spending 13 days in isolation."

Silverman said there was difficulty getting records transferred from one hospital to the other, and that there was little interaction between the doctor at that hospital and the one covering for his vacationing doctor at the other.

When asked what the 13 days in isolation were like, Silverman replied, "It was very traumatic. a very, very scary feeling of being alone."


"What happened to Evan is heartbreaking," said Andrew Romanoff, president and CEO of Mental Health Colorado. "There are a lot of folks in similar circumstances who are not getting the treatment they need. It doesn't have to be that way."

Romanoff said advanced psychiatric directives could be the answer.

"It would be extremely useful," he said, "perhaps even life-saving, to be able to commit to paper, in a binding legal form, the course of treatment they want, when they (later) may not be in a position to make that decision."

One of the bill's sponsors, Rep. Tracy Kraft-Tharp, D-Arvada/Westminster, said a "Behavioral Health Order" would make the patient an equal part of the team.

"It makes him part of being very active in his own treatment," she said.

Kraft-Tharp said HB19-1044 would allow adults to create a directive communicating health history, medication and treatment preferences, in the event of a psychotic episode.

She adds that the directives would not be mandates.

"If a doctor feels there is a better course, or if somebody is violent, that takes precedence," she said.

If the bill wins legislative approval, the Advanced Directives would become part of a patient's medical records, accessible by doctors and treatment facilities.

Twenty-five states already have similar laws in place.