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Youth Advisory Council becomes a reality

The week went by quickly with my last two bills making it out of the House Appropriations Committee and then through second and third readings on the House floor. They now move over to the Senate and the primary responsibility for the bill’s further success lies in the hands of the senate sponsors.

One of these bills would allow a check-off contribution to be made to support 2-1-1 call services, which is a private, non-profit effort managed by the United Ways of Colorado. For those who have just completed their annual state tax return, you may have noticed that there are 14 different non-profits that you can contribute to by checking a box on your tax return.

If we’re successful in getting this bill passed, it will help beef up the information network statewide, but especially in the southwest corner of the state. We would then be able to receive the same phone assistance services for people in distress in non-emergency situations. This is a great way to provide information to those in need and, by using the 211 phone number, that help is made easily accessible in a cost effective and user friendly way.

There is the limit of only 14 organizations able to be listed on the tax form, so as you might imagine, many non-profits want to be listed on the tax return to receive possible donations. According to current law, each organization has a certain threshold of contributions that must be received annually in order to stay on the form. If an organization fails to meet the threshold, they drop off the following year. There’s often competition whenever a new listing becomes available.

The other bill of mine that’s now on to the Senate asks that Colorado seeks a waiver from the federal government so that there’s more time allowed for Medicaid patients to be eligible for hospice services. Expanding the period of eligibility for hospice care lets terminally ill patients voluntarily access that care sooner and will enable a hospice team to care for a very ill patient earlier than is presently allowed under the federal law.

Currently, federal law says that a terminal illness is one where the physician diagnoses a patient with a condition that is likely to result in death within six months. We’re asking that physicians be given a little more latitude in that diagnosis by allowing the physician’s prediction to be made for patients with a time period of nine months instead of six.

Making a change of a few months may not seem like a big deal to most people, but given that a patient can’t receive hospice services until that referral is made can mean a lot to a patient and the patient’s family.

The average length of stay for a Colorado hospice patient is only 20 days, yet so many patients and families who have received care know just how significant it is during such difficult times and often say they would have received that care longer than a few weeks.

Finally, a great highlight of my week came in sitting in on the Joint House and Senate Education Committee to watch a team of three members of the Colorado Youth Advisory Council make a formal presentation about the council’s work to the committee. The students did a terrific job discussing bills from this session that COYAC had reviewed and they were prepared to give input on those bills to the legislators.

The legislators were busily competing with each other to ask questions of the COYAC team and were clearly interested in hearing the youth voice of Colorado, particularly in the area of education reform. It was incredibly gratifying to see that COYAC has come fully into its own. I thank all of the students from our area who helped write that bill with me to make COYAC become a reality.