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Statewide ‘I Matter’ program launches to help in youth mental health

Published: Nov. 9, 2021 at 7:58 PM MST|Updated: Nov. 9, 2021 at 8:37 PM MST
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GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. (KKCO) - Mental health support for Colorado youth has always been a critical need, but it’s especially important right now following the aftermath of the pandemic. The new statewide program called ‘I Matter’ launched October 27 with the purpose of aiding youth in their mental health following the repercussions of the pandemic. It offers kids up to three free behavioral health sessions with a licensed therapist, removing the barrier of cost.

‘I Matter’ is for Colorado youth 18 or younger. The program also provides services for those who are 21 or younger if they are receiving special education services.

Liz Owens with the Colorado State Department of Human Services Office of Behavioral Health says the bill passed in June after seeing the mental health needs of kids exacerbated by the pandemic.

“Covid brought on isolation, grief, cut off youth from their typical supports whether that be their school system or friends,” said Owens. “Just a lot of changes in people’s lives & a lot of sadness. So we wanted to do something that would help youth immediately & break down some of the key barriers to accessing mental health services, and that’s really cost.”

School District 51 is a proud supporter of the program. The district’s crisis coordinator Jason Talley says they have seen a significant impact on students amid the ongoing pandemic.

“We’ve definitely seen an increase in students struggling with mental health issues,” said Talley. “I think having not been in school for a period of time or had lack of structure. I see this really helping a lot of students who often times their needs are beyond what we can give them. So this helps speed up the process of getting more resources plugged in to those students lives.”

‘I Matter’ was part of Governor Polis’s comeback plan related to Covid. It is administered and funded by the Colorado Department of Human Services Office of Behavioral Health and reimburses participating licensed clinicians. The program is funded through June 30th of next year. It provides both mental health and substance use disorder services for youth.

“We think this program is life changing,” said Owens. “We’re able to remove cost, which is everybody’s first question with therapy. It also removes, who’s going to know about this, pieces related to stigma. We really hope this helps youth develop a lasting relationship with prioritizing their mental wellness.”

All kids need to do is go online and fill out a survey which then locates licensed therapists in their area. From there, it lists options of participating licensed clinicians both in-person and via telehealth for them to pick from and schedule with. Kids age 12 or younger must have a parent or guardian with them when filling out the form.

The survey can be found here: https://imattercolorado.org/

For more information or to become a provider, visit https://cdhs.colorado.gov/i-matter-program

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