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Want to Get Up to Speed on Mental Health Law in Colorado: Follow the work of Mental Health Colorado’s Moe Keller

Moe Keller catches us up on landmark mental health law in Colorado and what to be aware of now!

Mental Health Colorado’s Policy Expert:  Moe Keller

by Theresa Schiavone

Long time mental health advocate Moe Keller has been working to make things better for people with mental illness for much of her life.  As the sibling of a man with schizophrenia, she learned very young that mental illness is not only a daunting reality, but a condition that gets neither adequate medical, nor community attention.  Now the Vice President for Public Policy for Mental Health Colorado, an advocacy organization, Keller continues the fight for the basic rights of individuals with mental illness, despite a national administration led by those who seem determined to do what they can to roll back the advances she has helped create over the past several decades.


A former Colorado State senator, Keller took the lead in crafting legislation that has done much good for the underserved.  She shepherded the passage of the Child Mental Health Treatment Act, which bans the practice of requiring parents to give up custody of their children in order for them to receive treatment.  (She was shocked to find out that this was actually going on.)  She also carried the bill that set standards on the use of seclusion and restraint for people with mental illness. She co-sponsored the first parity bill in Colorado that mandated that mental health receive equivalent attention as medical health.   Ten years later, she sponsored the second Mental Health and Substance Use Disorders Parity Bill, which expanded the number of conditions covered for individuals to receive treatment.   She also authored a law creating a time line for children removed from their homes because of issues of dependency and neglect to receive attention.  She says, “Children who had been languishing in multiple foster homes for years, thinking that these were their parents, would [eventually] be removed from these homes and sent back to their [biological] parents.  It was a huge trauma for those children.  We had no time lines for how long a child would be out of the home before there was a final decision.  …The court said they couldn’t meet the time lines.  The attorneys said: No way, my schedule is too overloaded.  The child’s court appointed representative said: We can’t begin to do this; we have four hundred kids in our case loads.  And I just said:  Too bad.  We set up a judicial system that was based on adults’ convenience.  …No one was thinking of the kid.”


Moe Keller has been following healthcare trends and developments for many years, and has been helping us understand the implications of these trends.  “Block grants are code for cutting [funding],” she says.  When members of Ronald Reagan’s administration closed mental health hospitals in the 1980’s, she adds, they allocated money to the states to do community-based care.  It’s just that the block allocations were reduced until they amounted to nothing; then federal officials claimed these were state problems.  This, she says, is what’s going on now as states try to limit Medicaid.  Mental Health, Colorado, she says is fighting the effort to “block grant” Medicaid.  Another target of her work is the “narrowing of networks” by insurance companies.  This, she explains, is the reduction of medical staff by insurers in an effort to reduce access to medical care to consumers.  What people don’t realize, says Keller, is that they have access to Colorado’s Insurance Commissioner to examine issues like the narrowing of networks or the lack of parity for mental health care.


As Keller testifies regularly before the Colorado Legislature to make the case for the need for mental healthcare in our community, she welcomes inquiries about her work and the state legislation that helps shape our healthcare.   Moe Keller can be reached at Mental Health Colorado:


VP of Public Policy at Mental Health Colorado

1120 Lincoln St, Ste 1606, Denver, CO 80203 720.208.2224 

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