State seeks behavioral health systems for new program

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The state is seeking behavioral health systems to participate in a new program that aims to improve defendants’ access to mental health services.

Behavioral health organizations across Colorado will provide at least one court liaison in each of the state’s 22 judicial districts under the Bridges Program, according to Tuesday press release from the Colorado Judicial Department.

The program was created earlier this year by the passage of Senate Bill 18-251, which appropriated $2 million for the State Court Administrator’s Office.

“The court liaisons will work directly with defendants to ensure they receive appropriate evaluations and needed mental health services,” the release said. “The court liaisons also will work to ensure that judges, prosecutors and defense attorneys are informed about mental health services available in their community, including services for defendants who have been ordered to undergo an evaluation to determine their competency to proceed in a criminal matter, and those who require services to restore competency.”

Legislators approving the program is an indicator they recognize “people with mental health and substance use disorders are over-represented in the criminal justice system and are at significantly greater risk than the general public of becoming involved in the system.”

“Fostering collaboration is one way of making sure that we are managing our state’s resources wisely,” said State Court Administrator Christopher T. Ryan, in the release. “The Bridges Program is a well-thought-through and innovative approach that strengthens our systems and creates a path toward the mental health and well-being of Coloradans who encounter the criminal justice system.”

The state issued a statewide request for proposals from behavioral health organizations earlier this month. Applicants must be able to provide court liaisons to support access to services for people in the criminal justice system.

Deadline for submissions is Sept. 10. Contact Jennifer Turner with the Bridges Program at jennifer.turner@judicial.state.co.us for more information.

The program is expected to begin Oct. 1.

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