By Rachel Smith

DENVER (CBS4)– Gov. Jared Polis and mental health professionals highlighted the need for better care in Colorado on Monday. Polis signed a proclamation, officially making May Mental Health Awareness Month.

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“While we have a particular focus on it this month, we want to make sure we are focusing on these issues day in and day out to ensure the mental health and well-being of every Coloradan.” Polis said at Monday’s press conference.

Colorado’s first-ever Behavioral Health Administration Commissioner emphasized the acute need in communities of color and rural areas, which are both historically underserved.

“This is really about us grappling with the future, it is really about us making a commitment to a holistic vision, it is really about us showing today that we are going to be an administration that puts people first.” Dr. Morgan Medlock said while calling for a more equitable approach to mental health care in Colorado.

“As we know the harms of racism work at institutional, interpersonal, and internal layers, so it’s important that our response also includes institutional, interpersonal, and internal responses.”

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Colorado lawmakers have been taking steps to reform the state’s behavioral health system. A bill making its way through the legislature would launch a new Behavioral Health Administration, which would oversee Colorado’s mental healthcare systems and coordinate resources across the state.

The Governor’s Behavioral Health Task Force is also pushing to address workforce shortages among mental health professionals, build a more effective safety net systems for people with behavioral health disorders, and shore up mental health care services to meet record demand.