Health Care Financing

Colorado violating Medicaid mandate by not providing mental health services to children, lawsuit alleges

Colorado is violating a Medicaid Act mandate by not providing certain mental health services to eligible children at home or in their community, which in some cases has led to teenagers experiencing “unnecessary institutionalization,” a federal lawsuit filed Friday alleges.

The lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court of Colorado against Kim Bimestefer, the head of the state Department of Health Care Policy and Financing, on behalf of three unnamed teenagers and their families, including one with a history of suicide attempts and self-harm who was in a metro Denver emergency room for about a month.

“Colorado has been ignoring their duty to provide mental health services to the children of Colorado for too long,” attorney Robert H. Farley Jr. said in a statement. “We hope this lawsuit will force the state to find a solution for providing care to all of Colorado’s children and youth who need it.”

Marc Williams, spokesman for the Department of Health Care Policy and Financing, declined to comment on the lawsuit, citing pending litigation.

The suit is also seeking class-action status on the behalf of people under the age of 21 who qualify for Medicaid and have been diagnosed with mental health or behavioral disorders and who have been recommended to receive Intensive Home and Community-based services.