2019 Colorado Health Access Survey: Behavioral Health

In 2019, 15.3 percent of Coloradans reported poor mental health, compared with 11.8 percent in 2017. The increase could signal worsening mental health — and an increased willingness to talk about it.
April 18, 2023

Substance Use

More than 1 million Colorado adults (26.9 percent) say that they, a loved one, or a close friend has been addicted to alcohol or drugs in their lifetime. Of these, 44.5 percent said they or a loved one struggled with prescription painkillers or heroin. More than 200,000 adults in Colorado know someone who has died from a prescription painkiller or heroin overdose.

Yet 95,000 Coloradans said they went without needed substance use treatment in 2019.


Stigma is a major reason people go without care. Many Coloradans are not comfortable talking about problems related to substance use or are concerned about someone finding out they have a problem.






Policy: Substance use continues to be a major focus for the Colorado legislature. House Bill 18-1136 aims to expand inpatient and residential treatment for substance use disorder starting July 2020 by covering it as part of the Medicaid benefit package.

Data: Substance use in Colorado communities hits women especially hard. Women are almost twice as likely as men to say that they, a loved one, or a friend has been addicted to prescription painkillers or heroin (14.6 percent off women compared with 8.4 percent of men). Women are also more likely to report that they or someone they know has taken prescription painkillers or heroin, taken any drugs by injection with a needle, or received emergency medical treatment due to drug use.


Explore More CHAS Findings by Subject


2019 Colorado Health Access Survey: Health Insurance Coverage

A record number of Coloradans have health insurance, and growing numbers are having trouble paying their medical bills.



2019 Colorado Health Access Survey: Social Factors

Nutritious food and housing are fundamental to health. Yet one in 10 Coloradans don’t get enough to eat, and one in 15 worry about having a place to live.


Stories of the CHAS: Shortcoming in the System

For the first time, this survey report includes personal stories of Coloradans directly affected by food insecurity, access to mental health care, surprise bills, and loss of insurance coverage. Read the second in this series.

Mental Health

More Coloradans are reporting poor mental health, and fewer are getting the care they need. In 2019, 15.3 percent of Coloradans reported poor mental health, compared with 11.8 percent in 2017.


More than one in 10 Coloradans (13.5 percent) say they did not get needed mental health care in the past year, compared with 7.6 percent two years ago. Those who did not get needed mental health care were more likely than in prior years to report barriers related to stigma and lack of coverage. While the overall affordability of health care and modern stressors such as social media and political rhetoric all likely contribute to poor mental health, it is also possible that efforts to raise awareness of mental health issues have resulted in more Coloradans recognizing that they need care.





Policy: House Bill 19-1269, the Behavioral Health Care Coverage Modernization Act, strengthened state requirements for insurance coverage of mental health and substance use care.

Data: Coloradans who identify as transgender experience higher rates of poor mental health. More than half of adult respondents who identified as transgender (54.3 percent) reported poor mental health in the past month, compared with 15.7 percent of cisgender Coloradans(those whose gender identity matches the sex they were assigned at birth). This may reflect discrimination and social strain that this community endures.



The CHAS is fielded, analyzed and managed by the Colorado Health Institute.

CHI contracts with SSRS to conduct the survey.

The survey is primarily funded by The Colorado Trust and The Colorado Health Foundation.