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Colorado first in nation to offer free mental health care to youths

Students can receive up to six free therapy sessions
Photo by Külli Kittus on Unsplash

Amanda Dodson first noticed signs for a pilot program called "I Matter" at her ten-year-old daughter Hailey's school. After looking into it, she was able to get Hailey in to see a therapist, for free, to address a diagnosis of Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder. Dodson said the experience has been life-changing. Hailey is able to visit a therapist, play games, have snacks and feel completely comfortable talking about her experiences and learning coping skills.

"The therapist even follows up with us as parents and recaps what it is that they are working on together. And it feels like a family effort at this point to help her get the support she needs," Amanda Dodson said.

Colorado became the first state in the nation to provide free access to mental health care for all students after lawmakers made the "I Matter" program permanent. Students can receive up to six free therapy sessions, and connect with case managers if additional care is needed, by filling out a form at ''

The "I Matter" pilot has helped some 12,000 Colorado youths access more than 50,000 free therapy sessions in 63 of the state's 64 counties since 2021.

State Senator Dafna Michaelson Jenet, D-Commerce City, helped launch the pilot, and believes the program will continue to help young people get back on a steady path.

"Our kids are struggling in ways that other generations have not struggled. And it is incumbent upon us to recognize that need for therapeutic assistance and support, and be able to provide it, " Jenet said.

A recent Healthier Colorado/Inseparable poll found that nine in ten Colorado voters strongly support making no-cost mental health services available to struggling youths. Dodson said making the "I Matter" program permanent shows the state is taking mental health seriously.

"I just have been excited to see I Matter happening and being advertised. And I'm happy to have gotten into this program, and I would really love for everyone to have the same opportunity," she continued.