March | April 2017



Colorado Governor Signs Mental Health Law

Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper in May signed into law a bill to expand state mental health services in direct response to the July 2012 Aurora shootings, according to The Associated Press. Senate Bill 13-266 provides nearly $20 million for the expansion of mental health services, an area that has been hit hard by budget cuts since 2002.
The new law outlines a “comprehensive statewide behavioral health crisis response system” designed to deliver better mental health services and greater access to those services throughout the state. The bill provides for several services to be in place before early next year.
A 24-hour mental health hotline will be set up and staffed by trained professionals capable of assessing crisis situations and making referrals. The state also will establish linked walk-in crisis centers, mobile units and residential respite crisis services throughout the state. The walk-in centers will be able to provide “immediate clinical intervention, triage and stabilization.” The mobile units, designed to travel to rural areas with limited access to mental health services, will have the capability to initiate responses to behavioral health crises. Residential services will provide short-term services and community living arrangements.
The new law also requires the state to engage in a public service campaign to make people more aware of how they can gain access to state services.
“These pieces of legislation will improve Colorado’s behavioral health system and help us to improve the safety of individuals and our communities by providing the right services, to the right people at the right time,” Colorado Department of Human Services Executive Director Reggie Bicaha said in response to the signing of Senate Bill 13-266 and House Bill 13-1296. The House bill creates a task force to study the consolidation of state laws that deal with placing someone in involuntary commitment.

The Alaska Legislature in May passed a bill backed by Gov. Sean Parnell that will reduce oil tax rates, according to the Anchorage Daily News. Under the current tax policy, Alaska’s Clear and Equitable Share, rates increase as the price of oil rises. Parnell believes the new plan will encourage production in untapped oil fields and drilling in larger, legacy fields.
Idaho exceeded state revenue expectations in April by $56.4 million or 13.2 percent, the Idaho Statesman reported. This is the largest monthly surplus to date during the 2013 fiscal year, which ended June 30. The state has collected nearly $2.32 billion during this fiscal year—3.5 percent ahead of the forecast numbers.
Washington Gov. Jay Inslee in May signed into law tougher penalties for those charged with boating under the influence, according to The Olympian. Under the new law, BUI will be considered a gross misdemeanor punishable by a $5,000 fine and up to a year in jail. Those suspected of intoxication also could be fined $1,000 if they refuse a Breathalyzer or blood test. The new law will take effect July 28.
In an effort to cut down on out-of-state black market sales, Oregon legislators were considering a bill in May that would legalize and license medical marijuana retailers, The Associated Press reported. Under the bill, retailers would be required to pay a $4,000 per year registration fee and would need to pass a background check. They also would be required to document the marijuana entering their stores, as well as verify the product is from state-registered growers.
Utah in May became the 36th state to place a ban on minors’ use of cellphones while driving, according to The Salt Lake Tribune. Under the new law, any driver under 18 would be fined $25 for use of a cellphone while driving. The bill allows exceptions for cellphone use by minors, such as medical emergencies or to report safety hazards and criminal activities.