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Where Does Colorado Rank for Mental Health Services?

Illustration of a man in front of mountains reveals that colorado ranks 45 out of 50 states for mental health


Mental health services and care in the United States is a critical and complex issue, with significant variations among states in terms of accessibility, quality, and effectiveness. Unfortunately, according to Mental Health America's 2023 State of Mental Health Report, Colorado finds itself ranked 45th out of 50 states for adult mental health services highlighting challenges and shortcomings in the state's mental health care system. This article aims to explore the reasons behind Colorado's low ranking, drawing insights from professional and reputable sources, backed by statistics and evidence, and what Colorado's citizens can do to get help.


Reasons Colorado Ranks So Low for Mental Health

1. Access to Mental Health Services

One of the key factors contributing to Colorado's low ranking is the limited access to mental health services. The shortage of mental health professionals, particularly in rural areas, exacerbates the problem. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, 2.8 million Coloradans, or 48% of Colorado's population, reside in Mental Health Professional Shortage Areas. The lack of accessibility makes it challenging for individuals in need to receive timely and adequate care.


2. Insufficient Funding for Mental Health Programs

Colorado's mental health care system also faces challenges due to insufficient funding. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, Colorado ranks 47th in the nation for mental health spending per capita. Inadequate funding impacts the availability of services, quality of care, and the implementation of preventative measures.

In another study, Colorado spent $98.80 on mental health services and we were ranked 27th. However, for comparison, Maine, which ranks as #1, spends $345.36 per capita. The lower investment directly affects the state's ability to expand mental health programs, hire skilled professionals, and address the growing demand for mental health services.


3. Stigma Surrounding Mental Health

The stigma attached to mental health issues remains a pervasive barrier in Colorado. Nearly half of Coloradoans cite stigma as a reason they did not get needed mental health services.  The Colorado Health Institute highlights that negative perceptions surrounding mental health can lead to delayed treatment seeking and increased reluctance to discuss mental health openly.

Efforts to reduce stigma are crucial for improving mental health outcomes. The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment acknowledges the need for targeted public awareness campaigns to change societal attitudes toward mental health. However, the effectiveness of such campaigns is hindered by limited resources and outreach.


4. Substance Abuse and Co-occurring Disorders

The high prevalence of substance abuse and co-occurring disorders contributes to Colorado's mental health challenges. According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), Colorado has a higher rate of substance use disorders than the national average.

The intertwined nature of mental health and substance abuse makes it essential to address both aspects simultaneously. The lack of integrated care models and resources to manage co-occurring disorders further complicates the treatment landscape.


5. Crisis Response and Emergency Care

Colorado's mental health care system faces shortcomings in crisis response and emergency care. The Treatment Advocacy Center's report on the state's mental health laws and services highlights challenges in involuntary hospitalization criteria and the availability of emergency psychiatric beds.

Insufficient crisis intervention measures can lead to tragic outcomes, such as increased rates of incarceration and homelessness among individuals with untreated mental illnesses. Addressing these issues requires comprehensive reform in mental health laws, increased funding for crisis services, and improved collaboration between law enforcement and mental health professionals.


6. Geographic Disparities in Mental Health Services

Geographic disparities in mental health care access pose a significant challenge for Colorado. The state's diverse landscape, with urban areas concentrated along the Front Range and vast rural regions, results in uneven distribution of mental health resources.

Where do people go when they have bad mental health? Rural areas often face a shortage of mental health professionals, limited access to telehealth services, and challenges in implementing community-based programs. The Colorado Health Access Survey underscores the need for targeted initiatives to bridge the urban-rural gap in mental health care accessibility.


What Axis is Doing to Deliver Better Mental Health Services in Colorado

Axis Integrated Mental Health is revolutionizing mental health care in Colorado by providing an integrated and comprehensive approach to treatment. By combining psychiatry, therapy, and various therapeutic modalities under one roof, Axis ensures that individuals receive holistic and personalized care tailored to their unique needs.

Moreover, Axis is committed to making mental health care accessible to all, exemplified by their philanthropic efforts. The organization has donated over $100,000 to support pro-bono mental health services, reaching individuals who may face financial barriers to treatment. Additionally, another $100,000 has been allocated to cover Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS) therapy for Medicaid patients, making it the only clinic to cover this treatment and extend advanced treatment options to underserved populations.

Axis also simplifies the often complex process of navigating insurance, facilitating a seamless experience for patients seeking mental health support. We accept nearly every insurance plan and advocate on behalf of our patients to ensure coverage for all mental health services we offer. This enables patients to focus on healing rather than access.

As part of their dedication to destigmatizing mental health care, Axis has launched the #bravenotbroken mental health series, aiming to foster open conversations and challenge societal perceptions surrounding mental health. Through these initiatives, Axis Mental Health is at the forefront of transforming mental health care in Colorado, prioritizing accessibility, inclusivity, and breaking down barriers to holistic well-being.



Colorado's 45th ranking in mental health care is a multifaceted issue influenced by factors ranging from limited access to mental health services and insufficient funding to stigma and challenges in crisis response. Addressing these issues requires a comprehensive and collaborative approach, involving policymakers, healthcare providers, communities, and advocacy organizations.

Efforts to improve mental health care in Colorado should focus on increasing funding for mental health programs, expanding the mental health workforce, reducing stigma through public awareness campaigns, and implementing policies that enhance crisis response and emergency care. By addressing these challenges head-on, Colorado can strive towards a mental health care system that prioritizes accessibility, quality, and effectiveness for all its residents.

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