Improve Access to HCBS For Underserved Populations

The Need


The Department has identified several underserved populations in HCBS programs, including individuals with disabilities living on tribal lands, those who identify as Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC), and individuals with behavioral health needs. As a state focused on meeting the needs of all Coloradans, ensuring access across all populations through disability and culturally competent, whole-person care is a key priority for the Department.

Initiative 3.06. -  Expand the Behavioral Health Safety Net

The Department has an opportunity with these funds to strengthen and expand the behavioral health safety net through provider training, workforce development, enhanced standards, high-intensity outpatient services, and value-based pay for performance models supporting whole-person care. 

Over the past two years, the Department, in partnership with the RAEs, have aligned on a definition for high intensity outpatient services through a collaborative stakeholder engagement process. The safety net expansion effort will build upon and implement this definition through the following four projects:

  • Conduct a gap analysis for high intensity outpatient services: The Department needs to assess the extent to which its current delivery system provides adequate high intensity outpatient services and to identify any needed improvements.
  • Develop training and technical assistance to build capacity with providers and health plans: Providers will need technical assistance and other support to improve their capacity to deliver high intensity outpatient services.
  • Develop value-based payment framework for high intensity services and whole person care: Providers will also need alternative financing models that better support whole person care and reward improved outcomes. The Department will create a new value-based reimbursement model to support the implementation of high intensity outpatient services and to improve capacity of the service networks.
  • Assess and review regulatory foundations for high intensity outpatient services: To build adequate networks for high intensity outpatient services and to financially support these networks, the Department, working with the Office of Behavioral Health, needs to review and align their credentialing and contracting policies with the safety net framework. The Department will assess and revise critical regulations concerning high intensity outpatient services.

Initiative 3.07. - Wrap-Around Services, including Peer Supports, for Members with Complex Needs

The Department will fund and develop a sustainability strategy for wrap-around services, including housing support services and community-based peer support, for recipients of complex social service benefits such as housing vouchers and supportive housing services. This will be focused on individuals with serious mental illness and a history of homelessness and repeat hospitalizations and will not include any funding for room and board.  Initiative 3.07 consists of two grant projects described below.

The Statewide Supportive Housing Expansion (SWSHE) Pilot Project

The Department will implement a pilot program to provide supportive housing services for at least 500 Medicaid members. Participating members will receive housing vouchers from the Colorado Department of Local Affairs (DOLA). This initiative is modeled on the evidence-based social impact bond project in Denver. It focuses on individuals who have serious mental illness and have a history of homelessness and emergency care. The Department has also been awarded a technical assistance program by the National Academy for State Health Policy (NASHP) about how to best integrate services across state agencies to expand housing options to their shared clients who are unhoused.
With the support of the NASHP technical assistance grant, the Department  will conduct an analysis of funding mechanisms and payment models. The Department will then develop recommendations on how to improve support models of care for individuals with extensive history of complex social and behavioral health needs.

For providers, this will create options for them to expand their business models, increasing their solvency and the populations they are able to serve. It will build provider capacity, including housing service providers, and sustainability in rural areas where traditional care models are becoming more difficult to provide due to changing economic and population needs. It also aligns with Colorado’s broader behavioral health safety net initiative in that it expands the network and financing of behavioral health specialty providers 


Peer Support Grants for Housing Stability 

The purpose of this grant project is to expand access to Peer Support Services for Medicaid members with complex needs and a history of homelessness. Funding shall be awarded to cover costs associated with outreach, engagement, hiring, training, retention, and supervision of Peer Support Professionals that can provide billable services in the context of housing stability. Funding shall also be awarded to support costs associated with building administrative capacity to become a Medicaid provider and successfully provide and bill for Peer Support Services. SWSHE Pilot Project grant recipients may also apply for this grant. 

Initiative 3.01. - Equity Study

Individuals receiving HCBS in Colorado are more likely to be white and English-speaking than the overall population and general Medicaid population. It is unclear what is driving the disparity or how to create more equity in HCBS. This project would aid in better understanding who receives HCBS in Colorado and what services they receive, where the gaps are, and target outreach to ensure HCBS services are provided to all Coloradans who are eligible.

The study will address the following:

  • Internal data analysis: Identify disparities in HCBS by analyzing enrollment and utilization data by race, ethnicity, language, and geography; develop a snapshot report that identifies disparities across the system to be presented to stakeholders in the community. 
  • External stakeholder feedback and recommendations: Based on disparities identified, contract with a vendor to gather feedback from stakeholders and write up recommendations.  
  • Implementation planning: Once recommendations are gathered, an internal team will put together an implementation plan to begin creating more equity in HCBS.

Initiative 3.04. -  HCBS Training for Members & Families

In addition to providing training for providers, the Department will develop and make available culturally competent trainings and resources for members and their families to assist with navigating the HCBS system. This will include providing education and support to family caregivers. The training project will provide information to members to help educate them on all waivers, navigate through the different waivers, and explain members’ right to choose between service providers. The training would be member-focused, person-centered and in plain language for ease of use.

Initiative 3.05. - Translation of Case Management Material

The Department does not currently have member-facing case management material translated into all necessary languages. The Department will translate public facing case management materials, such as waiver charts, waiver flow charts, specialized behavioral health programs and benefits, and other basic information about waivers and other long-term services and support programs, into multiple languages for members and caretakers to understand in their own language. This work would also take into consideration other accessibility needs such as hearing and vision impairments.

Initiative 3.08. -  AI/AN Culturally Responsive Services Capacity Grants 

(previously named Behavioral Health Capacity Grants)

To finalize the suite of projects to expand the behavioral health safety net in Colorado, the Department will complete a final project focused on community identified service gaps that members experience when seeking behavioral health services. The Department will award small grants that focus on the following needs: rural behavioral health, tribal behavioral health, integrating care and treatment options in communities, substance use services, and filling other locally identified gaps in the care continuum. There will be a technical assistance component for grantees provided through a learning collaborative. 


Funds will be distributed to smaller sub-awardees using evidenced-based practices. Awards would be prioritized to agencies mitigating care deserts or better serving the Colorado American Indian/Alaskan Native (AI/AN) population. This grant program will prioritize providers and programs that are improving their ability to serve individuals with disabilities on an HCBS waiver, who also have co-occurring behavioral health (SUD and MH) needs with a focus on lower acuity services and smaller community-based providers compared to the previously mentioned initiatives. This includes Behavioral Health Services provided through Colorado’s 1915(b)3 waiver.

Initiative 3.02. - Buy-In Analysis

Many people with disabilities are interested in working. Health insurance coverage can have an important relationship to employment for people with disabilities. For example, persons with disabilities on Medicaid may be concerned that they will lose their Medicaid coverage if they enter or return to the workforce. Commercial or employer-based health insurance might not provide coverage for services and supports that enable people with disabilities to work and live independently such as personal assistance services. The purpose of the Medicaid Buy-In program is to allow persons with disabilities to purchase Medicaid coverage that helps enable them to work. Through this initiative, the Department will research strategies to improve equity outcomes by analyzing the financial, population size, and demographic impacts of using less restrictive eligibility income and resource methodologies for individuals with disabilities. This project will also include targeted outreach to ensure individuals know about the buy-in program for members with disabilities who are working and how they are able to qualify and retain their assets.

Initiative 3.03. - Community Transitions Support

New in 2023 - With the additional funding and time to implement projects, the Department will execute a number of initiatives to address federal Department of Justice findings related to community transitions and the nursing facility diversion process. These include: implementing In-Reach counseling which will provide information to members living in nursing facilities about their options to live in the community in both a group and individual setting; implementing diversion and rapid reintegration activities during the nursing facility Level of Care screening to provide information on community living and help individuals plan to move back to the community when appropriate; providing case management and care coordination for members that are identified to be at risk of institutionalization; increasing the number of units of transition coordination services a member can use to transition to the community; increase the maximum transition set up cost to adjust for inflation and higher costs of goods needed to furnish a member's home; creating an eligibility escalation process through one of the Department's eligibility contractors for cases needing immediate financial eligibility determination; expanding housing navigation services to members who are at risk of institutionalization to provide support in identifying units and negotiating leases; aligning the home modification maximum resets across all waivers.