Colorado House Representative Dafna Michaelson Jenet told Denver7 Thursday that she has seen renewed interest in a student mental health bill, which is currently under consideration in the state legislature, since a shooting at East High School earlier this month.
House Bill 23-1003 would create a universal mental health screening process for students ranging from sixth grade to seniors in high school.
On March 22, an East High School student allegedly pulled out a gun and shot two school administrators during a routine search. Two days later, East High students marched to the Colorado State Capitol to voice support for a series of gun reform bills.
Jenet told Denver7 they also voiced support for HB23-1003.
“We know that our kids are struggling and suffering. Students from East High School came to my office to talk about [the bill] and how they support it,” Jenet said. “They were very passionate about the idea that through mental health identification, kids can get into therapy fast. If we get kids into therapy fast we meet them before they reach crisis. That's the answer.”
Lawmakers have made an amendment to the bill since it was introduced. The text of the bill originally included language around mental health “assessments,” but has since changed to mental health “screenings.”
“Medically speaking, or in psychological terminology, ‘assessment’ meant something far deeper than what we are doing,” Jenet said. “This is truly a screening for whether or not you would be a good candidate for therapy.”
Proposed bill seeks yearly mental health evaluations for Colorado students
Jenet has said the bill would build upon the I Matter program, which was created in 2021 and provides students with six free therapy sessions. It is funded and administered by the Office of Behavioral Health, and received $6 million through the American Rescue Plan Act following the passage of House Bill 22-1243.
She told Denver7 the primary opponent of the bill is the Christian Home Educators of Colorado (CHEC), which has said the bill "includes several troubling aspects that will interfere with the child/parent relationship."
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