By Jeff Todd

DENVER (CBS4) – A program to offer free sessions with a mental health professional to kids is coming online as Colorado deals with a crisis of children experiencing anxiety, depression, and suicidal thoughts. On Wednesday, IMatterColorado.org launched and is offering services to all kids in Colorado who could use help.

“There was need before and COVID just exacerbated the need,” said Rep. Dafna Michaelson Jenet, a Democrat from Commerce City, who led the legislation establishing the program. “What I’m hoping is with this platform, with the opportunity for parents to be involved with kids in this process, that maybe it will open the conversation about what therapy is. Why I might need therapy. How therapy looks.”

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An advisory panel made up of school-aged kids helped guide the state and came up with the name. Online, a survey can help kids and parents find the right kind of care they need. Right now, about 700 sessions are available, but there’s enough funding to offer about three sessions to 10,000 kids in Colorado.

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“We know there are a lot of parents out there who wish that it was easier and more affordable to get their kids access to care. It’s about addressing the youth needs right now, and it’s also about developing that relationship with mental health care,” said Liz Owens with the Office of Behavioral Health which is running IMatter.

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From the age of 12 and up, kids can sign up for the sessions without parental consent.

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“It takes away the cost barrier, it takes away the insurance barrier. And we’re hoping it takes away some of the fear,” said Rep. Michaelson Jenet. “If we could get the word out to our kids, that this is available to them, ideally through our parents saying, ‘Hey, this is available for you. Do you want my participation? Do you not want my participation?’ And let’s let our kids get help in ways that they’ve not gotten help before.”

Jeff Todd