Workbook Measures the State of Behavioral Health in Colorado

In his State of the State address on Jan. 12, Gov. John Hickenlooper called for making the behavioral health system “easier to navigate, more efficient and more responsive.”

He noted strides in expanding access to coverage and integrating primary care and behavioral health. “But,” he added, “behavioral health demands our attention at all points … and not just as one-off efforts when problems get too big to ignore.”

Updated data from the Colorado Health Institute’s Behavioral Health Workbook illustrates various facets of mental health in the state. The numbers show slight increases across almost all behavioral health measures covered in the workbook, along with several significant changes.

The suicide rate among adults 18 and older in 2014 was 24.0 per 100,000 and rose to 25.0 per 100,000 in 2015. Coloradans ages 10 to 17 reported a rate increase from 7.0 per 100,000 in 2014 to 9.1 per 100,000 in 2015. A recent analysis by Policy Analyst Tamara Keeney on our website offers more information about this increase.

Data from the Healthy Kids Colorado Survey (HKCS) provide a snapshot of mental health among Colorado’s high schoolers — and it’s not a pretty picture.

 The percentage of students who said they felt so sad or hopeless almost every day for two weeks in a row that they stopped usual activities rose from 14.5 percent in 2013 to 29.5 percent in 2015. And the percentage of kids who seriously considered suicide increased from 14.5 in 2013 to 17.4 percent in 2015. (Readers can find an in-depth analysis of HKCS measures in a recent publication on our health and Colorado’s kids page. This analysis dives into racial/ethnic differences as well as disparities by sexual orientation).

The workbook data also show some optimistic trends.

Just over 78 percent of mothers said they talked with health care workers about what do to if they experienced depression either during or after their pregnancy, according to data combined from 2012-14. This compares with 74.7 percent of mothers during 2011-13.

Already in this year’s legislative session, several bills addressing mental health and substance use disorder have been introduced, indicating that behavioral health will be a hot topic in the General Assembly.

The CHI workbook covers mental health issues among adults, high schoolers and children across Colorado. Data is broken down by Health Statistics Regions. Updated data come from a variety of sources, including the most recent Colorado Health Access Survey, Healthy Kids Colorado Survey, the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System and others.