(COLORADO SPRINGS) – The Colorado Department of Human Services (CDHS), and Office of Civil and Forensic Mental Health (OCFMH) has invested over $7.5 million since 2021 to treat and house individuals dealing with mental health and homelessness. Now, they want organizations in Southern Colorado to be aware they can apply to receive some of that money.

CDHS, which houses OCFMH, was sued in 2011 for failure to provide timely competency evaluations and restoration treatment, which has created a significant waitlist of pretrial detainees. Competency is a legal construct that refers to an individual’s capacity to function meaningfully and knowingly in a legal proceeding.

“50% of our competency waitlist is people experiencing homelessness that end up being arrested. And one of the reasons they end up staying in jail is because how are they going to get back to court if the court can’t follow where they are,” said Leora Joseph, director of OCFMH.

Following the lawsuit, CDHS has been subject to requirements, part of which requires them to be fined up to $12 million per year for non-compliance with the consent decree. The fines go into a fund to be distributed to programs aimed at eliminating the waitlist.

“The fines are awarded, through a competitive review and application process, to programs that demonstrate the potential to make meaningful changes for people who come into contact with the competency system,” said Daniel Murrie, one of the Special Masters overseeing CDHS’s consent decree.

Programs with innovative ideas are encouraged to apply, as well as rural communities and agencies. 

The programs include Ananeo Housing, SAFER Opportunities, Monarch Recovery Housing, Intensive Monitored Preventative and Acute Competency Treatment, and San Luis Valley Recovery Housing among many others.