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The 2022 legislative session of the Colorado General Assembly concluded on May 11 with a number of wins for kids and families. After a mad dash to the finish line, we are proud to share that all of our priority bills passed with bipartisan support! This year's legislative wins were characterized by major systemic shifts across all our issue areas. Among other successes we played a part in, we laid out the guidelines for implementing our new state Department of Early Childhood and Universal Preschool Program, helped expand Medicaid and CHP+ coverage for undocumented kids and pregnant people, updated our state’s TANF program, and secured more equitable, student-centered funding for our schools. This work would not have been possible without the dedicated efforts of our partners, coalition members, and advocates from across the state. Thank you for your continued support in making Colorado the best possible state for kids and families.  We are joined by Riley Kitts, Government Affairs Director at the Colorado Children’s Campaign, for our final conversation of season four. Riley celebrates the Children’s Campaign’s numerous legislative successes, and shares his own personal highlights and challenges from the past 120 days of session. In the midst of these successes, we continue to recognize the work that still remains in realizing every chance for every child in Colorado. We hope you will join us in our efforts to continue advocating for innovative solutions that prioritize child well-being. To read more about the bills we championed and supported in the 2022 legislative session, click here. Support the show
House Bill 22-1289: Cover All Coloradans is a monumental bill that will provide comprehensive public health insurance coverage to children, pregnant and postpartum undocumented Coloradans.  However, there is much more to this bill than what meets the eye. Behind this critical piece of legislation have been hours of dedicated engagement from a steering committee consisting of 11 directly impacted community members. Their experiences, stories, and insight have helped shape this bill and provide the perspective essential to ensuring it remains effective and equitable. By uplifting and centering community voice in policy work, we can more holistically embed human-centered legislation in systems that for far too long have intentionally shut out so many communities in our state.  Welcome back to season 4 of The West Steps! On today’s episode, we have a full house discussing the Cover All Coloradans bill. We are joined by Erin miller, Vice President for Health Initiatives at the Colorado Children's Campaign; Rayna Hetlage, Senior Policy Manager at Center for Health Progress; Raquel Lane- Arellano, Policy Manager at Colorado Immigrant Rights Coalition; and Dr. Lilia Cervantes, Associate Professor at CU Anschutz Medical Campus. Our discussion highlights the progress HB22-1289 has made throughout the legislative session, including the amendments that have been added to make it an even better bill. We also hear about the community-informed process behind this legislation, and how we can work to ensure such processes are more embedded in our policy advocacy work. To learn more about HB22-1289 and its journey through the legislature, click here. Support the show
Welcome back to The West Steps! Today, we return to a highly complex and often misunderstood topic: Colorado’s school funding system, and specifically local “mill levy override” funding. Leslie Colwell, Vice President for Education Initiatives at the Colorado Children’s Campaign; and George Welsh, former superintendent of Cañon City School District, join us to help make sense of this complicated component of our education and tax system. Our guests explain the ways property tax resources school districts, how it creates and widens inequities, and the impact this has on students.  Access to a high-quality education should not be determined by zip code, yet in Colorado, that is overwhelmingly the case. Our state's school finance system – the ways we resource schools with revenue and our allocation formula – is complicated to understand and highly inequitable. Supplemental revenue can be raised through local mill levy overrides, which require voter approval to increase the amount of mills residents pay for property tax.  However, not all property is valued at the same rate, allowing some communities to raise more funds than others. Currently, 64 school districts in the state have zero local overrides to support students. Especially with educational inequities widening as a result of the pandemic, it is essential that our policymakers work to correct this longstanding barrier to student success. This year, SB22-202 hopes to begin addressing these problems by establishing a state-funded Mill Levy Override Match Fund. This fund intends to level the playing field for schools in low-wealth communities who otherwise constantly struggle for adequate resources to meet student’s needs. While this bill will not solve Colorado’s school finance woes, it is one step toward improving school funding so that a student's access to educational opportunity is not limited by their zip code.  To learn more about this bill and its journey through the legislature, click here. Support the show (https://www.coloradokids.org/)
While many may view the governor signing a bill into law as the final step in the legislative process, this is not the case. In fact, a recently signed bill is barely halfway through the extensive journey a policy must take on its way to implementation. Why? After a bill is signed, the critical rulemaking phase beings. This process establishes in greater detail how the legislation will be implemented, ensuring that a law operates in the way in which it was originally intended. By advocating for equitable rulemaking, we can ensure policies have positive outcomes on those who face the most barriers to opportunity.  Season 4 of The West Steps continues! This week, we are once again featuring a first-ever topic on the podcast: the rulemaking process. Erin Miller, VP of Health Initiatives at the Colorado Children’s Campaign; Shoshi Preuss, Policy Analyst at Covering Kids and Families; and Bethany Pray, Legal Director at Colorado Center on Law and Policy join us for an overview of this critical component of policymaking. Our guests discuss what exactly rulemaking entails, how state agencies guide the process in different ways, and provide examples of recent rulemaking successes that have had a positive impact on Colorado kids and families. While this work may seem more complicated than engaging with the legislative process, advocacy is still just as important. To learn about how you can advocate for laws in the rulemaking process, visit the Colorado Secretary of State, where you can sign up to receive rules and notices of rulemaking. Support the show (https://www.coloradokids.org/)
Research has proven that students are more successful when they feel safe, connected, and have a sense of belonging at school. However, indicators of student success are often centered around academic achievement, overlooking the importance of school climate in contributing to positive student outcomes. As children return to in-person learning after nearly two years of pandemic-related disruptions, Colorado must define a statewide vision for school climate that enables students to feel connected and achieve their goals.  We are back with a new episode of The West Steps! Today's conversation centers a first-ever topic on the podcast – school climate. We are joined by Leslie Colwell, V.P. for Education Initiatives at the Colorado Children’s Campaign; Jennifer Levin, Director of Public Policy at The Arc of Colorado; and Veronica Bell, 3rd-grade teacher at KIPP Sunshine Peak Elementary and Teach Plus Colorado Policy Fellow. Our guests provide us with an overview of how school climate impacts the overall well-being and academic performance of students and the current work the School Climate Coalition is undertaking to create better learning environments for kids statewide. The discussion highlights the need to gather data that more adequately measures the school environments students are currently facing. These could include students sense of belonging, fair discipline practices, and behavioral health support. By gathering these data and making them publicly available, they can be used to help advance holistic policy solutions that create school climates in which students are eager to learn and thrive.  The School Climate Coalition is eager to elevate the voices of those closest to students. If you are interested in sharing your story and getting involved in this important work, contact Leslie Colwell at leslie@coloradokids.org. Support the show (https://www.coloradokids.org/)
Prior to the pandemic, Colorado made significant strides in improving the quality standards of early childhood programs. However, since the onset of the public health crisis, existing structural challenges have been exacerbated. Among these challenges include issues with workforce recruitment and retention, enrollment rates, and funding – with many children unable to receive care altogether. High quality early childhood experiences play an important role in child development and ultimately lead to better short- and long-term outcomes. For these reasons and many more, Colorado must work to ensure the doors of these child care centers remain open and that providers and caregivers have ample support to give kids the care they need to thrive. For episode 10 of The West Steps, we are joined by Fatin Ahmad, Assistant Director of Sunshine Academy, for another informative conversation on Colorado's current early childhood landscape. Fatin shares her experiences and challenges as a child care provider, highlighting the urgent need to retain quality teachers to create more fully functional child care spaces. Fatin also discusses the families her center serves and the negative outcomes that may result when children do not receive the care they need due to existing barriers to access. As HB22-1295 makes its way through the legislature, we have hope for the future of Colorado's child care system and the people who rely on it. This bill will begin the implementation process for the Department of Early Childhood and universal preschool. As Fatin emphasizes, to ensure the department achieves its intended goals, we must support providers and families to ensure access to equitable care. Support the show (https://www.coloradokids.org/)
 The U.S is the only developed country with an increasing maternal mortality rate, and in Colorado, that rate has doubled since 2008. Additionally, longstanding discriminatory policies and practices have led to maternal mortality rates among birthing people of color and people using Medicaid that are significantly higher than the mortality rates seen amongst birthing people who are white, or using private insurance. These data make one thing clear: our current maternal health system is not only failing, but also leading to horrific, deadly outcomes. It is time that families, and especially birthing people, have access to systems that allow them agency over their birthing experiences, and high-quality care that helps their family thrive.  Welcome back to The West Steps! This week, we have a full house discussing maternal health in Colorado with our guests, Erin Miller, Vice President of Health Initiatives at the Colorado Children’s Campaign; Indra Lusero, founder and director of Elephant Circle; and Kayla Frawley, Manager of Policy and Advocacy at Clayton Early Learning Centers. Our guests provide an overview of the current maternal health landscape in Colorado, including the policies that are taking steps to improve it. They also discuss the rising rate of home and community births, emphasizing the need to make midwifery more integrated in Colorado's maternal health care system. By creating accessible, culturally responsive options for birth settings, the state can better ensure more equitable birth outcomes.  In fact, birthing people across the state agree – systemic racism in birth settings is the number one issue that needs to be addressed by Colorado. This legislative session, HB22-128 – Cover All Coloradans -- hopes to take one step toward improving that. To learn more about this bill and how it would improve health care access for birthing people who are undocumented, click here. Support the show (https://www.coloradokids.org/)
When kids experience extreme poverty, it can have lifelong impacts on their health and well-being. That is why it is critical we take steps to help support families who are living far below the federal poverty level. House Bill 22-1259 will make changes to the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families Program (TANF), known here as Colorado Works, so that it is responsive to the needs of our families and our changing economic landscape. By increasing basic cash assistance payments, improving outreach and engagement around the program, and creating a smoother ramp to economic security for TANF recipients, this bill will ensure that all families can meet their basic needs and live happy, healthy lives.  Welcome back to The West Steps. This week, we are excited to have an in-depth conversation on one of the most consequential policies at the legislature this year: House Bill 22-1259. Sarah Barnes, Manager of Special Policy Initiatives at the Colorado Children’s Campaign, joins us for an overview of the bill and the impact it would have on families living in extreme poverty. Sarah discusses the ways in which the current TANF program is failing the families that depend on it, and how HB22-1259 would enact to fix our TANF statute’s outdated provisions. Basic cash assistance is one of the most targeted ways to lift families out of poverty, and it is essential that structural changes are made to ensure this program is accessible to the families that need it.  To follow this bill and its journey through the legislature, subscribe to KidsFlash and look out for our weekly Capitol Updates. Interested in joining the discussion? Contact Sarah Barnes at sarahb@coloradokids.org to find out ways to get involved with the TANF Coalition. Support the show (https://www.coloradokids.org/)
With less than 80 days to go in the legislative session, the pace has started to pick up at the Capitol. More than 400 pieces of legislation have been introduced, and the Children’s Campaign has already analyzed and taken positions on 120.  We are excited to see some of our priority bills already making their way through the legislature. If passed, our state could see significant systems change in the early childhood sector, school finance formula, and the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program, among others. You can follow these bills – and many more to be introduced – by subscribing to our weekly KidsFlash newsletter and visiting our Capitol Updates page.   This week on The West Steps, we’re in house! Riley Kitts, Government Affairs Director at the Colorado Children's Campaign, sits down with our host and Communications Director, Beza Taddess, to give us an insider view of what the 2022 legislative session has looked and felt like so far. In a year that more closely resembles pre-pandemic times, the session has been off to a slow start. However, the Children's Campaign is still anticipating the introduction of our additional priority bills – and hopefully their passage – to secure some significant wins for Colorado kids and families. Riley shares his excitement for the remainder of the session, and encourages all Coloradans to reach out to their legislators and share their stories. In fact, you don’t even need to travel to the Capitol to advocate for policies you care about. Contact your legislator via email, phone, or social media, and consider signing up to provide virtual testimony on a bill you are passionate about. To learn more about ways to engage, contact Riley at riley@coloradokids.org. Support the show (https://www.coloradokids.org/)
In Colorado, a family with two children must make less than $421 per month to qualify for the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program. Therefore, the level of poverty a family must experience to access this program is too low for it to truly help families achieve economic security. In addition, TANF payments do not adjust proportionally to inflation. The payments families receive are worth far less today than they were in 1996 when the program began. Colorado needs to take steps to ensure TANF better serves the families that need it. In doing so, we can help place families on the path to economic prosperity and ensure children have the resources they need to thrive. On this week’s episode of The West Steps, we gain firsthand insight about the changes needed to help TANF best support the Colorado families that need it. We are joined by Sarah Barnes, Manager of Special Policy Initiatives at the Colorado Children’s Campaign; and three members of the Clayton Early Learning team: Coressia Sanders, a former TANF recipient and Continuous Learning and Data Coach; Kayla Frawley, Manager of Policy and Advocacy, and Ealasha Vaughner, mother of two and Community Ambassador Coordinator . Our discussion centers around the many obstacles families face in accessing TANF. With TANF legislation soon to be introduced at the state Capitol, we also hear about the important steps advocates are taking to elevate the voices of TANF recipients in the policy making process to ensure the program changes in a way that better serves families. Interested in learning more about the work of the TANF coalition? Contact Sarah Barnes at sarahb@coloradokids.org. Support the show (https://www.coloradokids.org/)
Without health insurance, families are one medical emergency away from financial ruin. Therefore, the security and care that health insurance provides is immeasurable. Unfortunately, many Coloradans still do not have access to these services. This lack of health coverage can lead to detrimental outcomes, especially for people of color and people without certain documentation, who often face greater barriers to access due to systemic exclusion from the health care system. Having health insurance creates a ripple effect within families, allowing all to achieve better health outcomes. For these reasons and so many more, we must work to create holistic, integrated, and equitable policy solutions – because all Coloradans are worthy of care and coverage.  Welcome to another episode of The West Steps! This week, we expand on a critical conversation we’ve returned to throughout the podcast’s four seasons. We are joined by Erin Miller, Vice President of Health Initiatives at the Colorado Children’s Campaign; Shaunti Meyer, midwife and Senior Medical Director at Stride Medical Center; An Nguyen, Chief Dental Officer at Clinica Family Health; and Wendolyne Omaña, co-founder of Construyendo. Our guests highlight the importance of health insurance and preventative care, especially amongst pregnant people. They detail the need to make patients – especially people without documentation- feel safe and worthy of health care services. We also get a first glimpse at Cover all Coloradans, a bill being introduced this session which aims to provide health insurance to all undocumented pregnant people and kids under 19. To learn more about how this bill would provide more Coloradans with the physical, emotional, and oral health care they need and deserve, visit coverallcoloradans.org. Support the show (https://www.coloradokids.org/)
Hunger has always been an issue in our state. Over the course of the pandemic, food insecurity amongst Colorado kids increased from 1 in 6 children to 1 in 3. Along with that, many families often were not filling out free or reduced-price lunch applications, making it difficult for schools and programs to identify kids in need of food. This resulted in inaccurate data capturing the number of “at-risk” students in schools – preventing schools from getting the funds needed to provide for kids experiencing economic disadvantages. Working to solve food insecurity calls for a multi-pronged approach – one that more effectively identifies students in households with low incomes, provides high-quality meals, and adequately funds schools so that all students get the food they need to be healthy.  Our latest episode of The West Steps brings together two deeply interwoven topics that, when fully understood, could lead to transformative solutions for student poverty. Stephanie Perez-Carrillo, Colorado Children's Campaign alum; and Leslie Colwell, Vice President for Education Initiatives at the Colorado Children’s Campaign, discuss the pressing issue of food insecurity in our state, and how a holistic method of measuring student poverty could ensure kids get the nourishing school meals they need to thrive. Food insecurity amongst students was only exacerbated by the pandemic. Districts’ inability to accurately measure “at-risk” students and receive adequate funding to support them calls for a reimagined system of identifying students experiencing economic disadvantage. The “at risk” formula is not the only issue area advocates are hoping to change. This legislative session, SB22-087 aims to create the Healthy School Meals for All program, which would provide free school meals to all Colorado students in participating districts. To learn more about SB22-087 and find ways to engage, subscribe to our weekly KidsFlash newsletter.Support the show (https://www.coloradokids.org/)
Colorado is currently facing an early childhood worker shortage. The increased demand for educators, issues with workforce retention, and the compounding effects of the pandemic have only exacerbated the sector’s high turnover rate. House Bill 22-1010, the Early Childhood Educator Income Tax Credit, hopes to change this. If passed, this bipartisan bill would establish a fully refundable tax credit that would place money directly in the pockets of early childhood educators. The challenges occurring in the child care sector not only impact the early childhood workforce, but the Colorado families dependent on their support as well. Therefore, it is essential that our legislature develop equitable solutions to improve the lives of those who work to provide high-quality care to our youngest Coloradans.  The West Steps returns this week with an episode focused on the issues faced by the early childhood educator workforce. We are joined by Bill Jaeger, Vice President for Early Childhood and Policy Initiatives at the Colorado Children’s Campaign; and Elisha Stewart, Supervisor for the Inclusive Early Educator Program at the University of Colorado, Colorado Springs. Bill and Alicia share their insight on the current state of our child care workforce, and how HB 22-1010 hopes to change it. They also delve into the impacts that similar legislation has had in other states. While HB22-1010 won’t entirely resolve the challenges faced by early childhood educators, providing the workforce with the foundational income they need to feel more supported is one step toward improving the child care landscape in Colorado for all of those who depend on it.  The first House Committee on Education hearing for HB22-1010 takes place Feb. 2 at 10 a.m. We encourage you to contact your legislator and advocate for the passage of this bill. You can stay updated on HB 22-1010's journey through the legislature by subscribing to KidsFlash and viewing our weekly Capitol Updates. Support the show (https://www.coloradokids.org/)
Accurate, reliable data allow us to fully understand the health of perinatal people and their babies. Especially with the pandemic’s impact on maternal health, data are critical in providing a robust understanding of the support needed by birthing persons. Unfortunately, the current patchwork system of funding data collection is jeopardizing our understanding of maternal health outcomes in our state. More than ever before, we need these data to inform our policy solutions, work toward more equitable maternal health outcomes, and ultimately create a state where all birthing persons and their children have the resources they need to thrive.    Today’s episode of The West Steps features a first-ever conversation on maternal health data collection in Colorado. We are joined by Sarah Hughes, Vice President for Research Initiatives at the Colorado Children’s Campaign; Susan Hwang, neonatologist and health services researcher at Children’s Hospital Colorado; and Erin Miller, Vice President of Health Initiatives at the Colorado Children’s Campaign. The discussion opens up with the importance of collecting data about birthing people and children, as well as the primary means for data collection in our state. By establishing a well-funded, robust data surveillance system, we can better measure systems change in the maternal health landscape. Though our state and nation face a maternal mortality crisis, we are hopeful that we can make strides in changing that during the 2022 legislative session. Cover All Coloradans – a recently introduced bill – not only aims to provide better health care to individuals across the state, it also includes a more reliable funding stream for one of the state’s best programs for collecting maternal health data— the Health eMoms survey.  If you are interested in participating in advocacy efforts for Cover All Coloradans, or want to learn more about the bill, contact Erin Miller at erin@coloradokids.org. Look for more updates on Cover All Coloradans in our weekly KidsFlash newsletter. Subscribe today! Support the show (https://www.coloradokids.org/)
The Colorado General Assembly is back, which means it’s time to kick off season four of The West Steps. Episode 1 welcomes our Government Affairs Director, Riley Kitts, for an exciting conversation on what we can expect in the 2022 legislative session.  A lot has happened since last session ended in June 2021. Interim committees and task forces convened on issues ranging from behavioral health to early childhood, developing recommendations to ensure legislators are prepared for the 2022 session. In today’s conversation, Riley dives into the Children’s Campaign’s policy priorities, many of which have been refined throughout the interim process. Coloradans should look forward to new legislation impacting the state’s housing and economic crisis, the new Department of Early Childhood, and improved health care access for all. Most importantly, though, we hope to strive toward making our systems work as best as they can for kids and families.  Throughout the 2022 legislative session, the Colorado Children’s Campaign hopes to serve as a resource for all members of our community. There is no better time to get involved in our state government and push our legislators to prioritize families in Colorado. Follow us on social media (@ColoradoKidsOrg), subscribe to our weekly newsletter, and look out for new episodes of The West Steps to stay informed on child well-being news in the months ahead. Looking for more ways to engage at the capitol? Contact Riley Kitts at riley@coloradokids.org for more information. Support the show (https://www.coloradokids.org/)
Although the 2021 legislative session felt like one of the longest to date, it ushered in tremendous progress for kids and families in Colorado. This session not only forced many to recognize the numerous cracks in our society exposed by the pandemic, it also led to the start of removing the many barriers that created those systemic issues in the first place. The Colorado Children’s Campaign saw a number of legislative wins across the health, early childhood, and K-12 front—but there is still so much more to be done. As we move toward post-pandemic recovery, we are excited to continue our work in realizing every chance for every child in Colorado. In the last episode of season 3, we are joined by Riley Kitts, Government Affairs Director at the Colorado Children’s Campaign, for a final wrap up of the 2021 legislative session. Riley details the politics and policies of this session, including the many ways in which our state has begun to reinvest in the programs that lost revenue as a result of the pandemic. Riley also provides a brief overview of some of the most impactful policy wins we saw for kids this session, as well as the opportunity we have in 2022 to continue working toward legislation that creates the best possible outcome for all children. While the 2021 legislative session was only the beginning of what is to come in the future, it was undoubtedly a big step in creating a better Colorado for all kids and families.  Want to stay plugged in to the Colorado Children’s Campaign until next season? Stay up to date on the latest child well-being news by subscribing to our KidsFlash blog. Support the show (https://www.coloradokids.org/)
For years, the level of funding for Colorado schools has been largely dependent on property wealth. This is primarily an unintended result of how Colorado’s Taxpayer Bill of Rights (TABOR) amendment, which restricted the amount of revenue the state collected and spent, was implemented. Over time, this has created enormous inequities in the way our state collects and spends money in school districts. However, the Colorado Supreme Court recently issued a decision that will change this.  Leslie Colwell, VP of Education Initiatives at the Colorado Children’s Campaign, returns to The West Steps to discuss the exciting decision made this past Monday that will allow the legislature to begin correcting this longstanding issue. The passage of HB 1164 and the Supreme Court ruling that the proposed plan to waive TABOR limits is constitutional both will address a key structural problem in our revenue system for public schools. While these changes will take place over time, they will eventually result in $290 million dollars of funding for districts. This monumental decision comes after years of dedicated work and advocacy, and will hopefully lead to more targeted investments in our schools. As this transition takes place, we need you – our advocates – to speak up on behalf of your children, schools, and communities in order to ensure these funds are allocated in a manner that best prioritizes the needs of Colorado’s students. To read more about the recent Supreme Court decision, click here. Support the show (https://www.coloradokids.org/)
The health of a child is completely dependent on the health of their parent or caregiver. That is why quality, affordable behavioral health services play a critical role in creating strong families, especially during the perinatal period. However, lack of support, inaccessible services, and systemic racism have all contributed to the rising rate of perinatal mood and anxiety disorders. As out state moves toward recovery from the pandemic, creating programs that address the many disparities in our maternal health system is more important than ever for ensuring families can thrive.  Episode 15 of The West Steps welcomes a number of guests to the podcast. Erin Miller, VP of Health   Initiatives at the Colorado Children’s Campaign; Karla Gonzales Garcia, Policy Director at COLOR; Kelly Steinback-Tracy, Perinatal/Infant Mental Health Specialist at Denver Public Health; and Dr. Stephen Scott, OB/GYN at University of Colorado Hospital, all bring a vast array of experiences and knowledge to our discussion of maternal behavior health. Our guests provide an overview of what exactly maternal behavioral health services look like in Colorado, as well as the numerous structural barriers that make it difficult to access. Although the pandemic created additional obstacles to accessing these services, the 2021 legislative session proves to be an exciting time for maternal behavioral health. Senate Bills 27 and 137 are just two policies among many that could have an enormous impact on maternal behavioral health in our state. For more information on ways to stay engaged in moving this work forward, visit Colorado Maternal Mental Health Framework and Collaborative.  Support the show (https://www.coloradokids.org/)
High quality, accessible child care is not only necessary for helping young children thrive, but also for creating a strong and stable economy. In Colorado, our early childhood system remains fragmented and difficult to maneuver for both families and providers. Along with that, quality, availability, and cost of these services make it difficult for our providers to support families in the best way possible. These issues were only exacerbated by the pandemic, as many child care centers were forced to close their doors due to lack of funding. However, this economic fallout has led many Coloradans to finally recognize child care services as a critical part of our communities that demands the attention of our policymakers. In order to help lay a strong foundation for children's later learning and achievement, we must work towards improving and investing in our early childhood system. Diane Price, President and CEO of Early Connections Learning Centers in Colorado Springs, joins us for episode 14 as we discuss the historic changes happening with early childhood in our state. After years of demanding our state government show more commitment to early care and education, Colorado is finally moving toward fixing this broken system with the introduction of HB 1304. This bill would create a new cabinet-level state agency that consolidates the various early childhood authorities, programs, and funding streams, and focuses on a unified vision of comprehensive early childhood service delivery for all children.  If passed, the bill would result in momentous change for kids and families across the state. Join us in advocating for HB 1304, and we can establish a truly unified system that lifts up early childhood to the importance it deserves.  To learn more about HB 1304, visit our new microsite. Support the show (https://www.coloradokids.org/)
Lack of quality, affordable health insurance has the potential to create a vicious cycle of medical and financial strain for families. While more than 50 percent of Coloradans have health insurance through an employer, our state has experienced an increase in the number of individuals struggling to balance payments between medical bills, rent, and food. Along with that, longstanding systemic racism in our health care system has exacerbated health care coverage inequities among families of color. Now is the time to establish a system that pushes back against the rising cost of health insurance and eliminates inequities that continue to create negative outcomes for kids and families. The benefits of health care coverage for kids and families are enormous, and include increased high school completion rates, reduced evictions, decreased depression, and reduced maternal, infant and child mortality rates. These benefits, along with many others, make it critical for Coloradans to have access to quality, affordable health care.  Episode 13 of The West Steps dives into the complicated nature of health insurance access in our state. Adam Fox, Deputy Director of Colorado Consumer Health Initiative (CCHI); and Erin Miller, Vice President of Health Initiatives at the Colorado Children’s Campaign, discuss the current health care landscape and the many complexities built into it. They also explain why America's past and current “free market” approach to health insurance makes it impossible to provide cost effective coverage for all.  House Bill 1232 hopes to change this.  The bill specifically focuses the health care system in Colorado on better meeting the needs of those who have historically and systemically faced barriers to health. By implementing a standardized health plan, it will reduce expenses, make it easier for consumers to compare plans, and improve coverage for perinatal, behavioral, and primary health services. Contact your state legislator today and urge them to support policies like HB 1232 that create quality, affordable health care for all.  Vist CCHI for more information. Support the show (https://www.coloradokids.org/)
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