COLORADO, USA — Coloradans 18 and under can now receive three mental health counseling sessions, free of charge.
The program was established in response to the growing mental health issues kids have faced during the pandemic.
The $9 million program is called I Matter. It was launched by the Colorado Department of Human Services with the help of state leaders, including Rep. Dafna Michaelson Jenet, who garnered bipartisan support.
"COVID caused our young people to be locked in their rooms, not to physically see their friends, not to have their normal social outlets for getting the help they usually get, and they have told us through the pandemic that it's gotten much worse for them," Jenet said.
"I'm really hopeful that the I Matter program will provide a lifeline to those that have never had an opportunity to take advantage of care regardless of their insurance or financial status," Jenet said.
I Matter is a website that connects teens to counselors to schedule either in-person or online sessions. Kids 12 and older can sign up and take the survey without their parents' permission. Coloradans 21 and under who receive special education services can also sign up.
"Right now what we have are 32 therapists who are part of the program," Liz Owens, the Director of Policy for the state's Office of Behavioral Health, said. "Among those 32 therapists we have 700 slots available. So if a youth goes in now we have 359 slots per week."
The Department of Human Services expects to add more counselors as they hope to reach 1.5 million kids in a year.
The creators said they will try to work with people who are underinsured but require more than three sessions to get them the help they need.
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