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
bills' 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, a private, nonprofit effort managed by the United Ways of Colorado.
For those who have just completed their annual state tax return, you may have noticed there are 14 different
nonprofits you can contribute to by checking a box on your tax return.
If we're successful in getting this bill passed, it will help strengthen the information network statewide but
especially in the southwestern corner of the state. We then would receive the same phone-assistance services for
people in distress in nonemergency situations. This is a great way to provide information to those in need, and, by
using the 2-1-1 phone number, that help is made easily accessible in a cost-effective and user-friendly way.
Many nonprofits want to be listed on the tax return to receive donations, but it is limited to 14 organizations.
Under current law, each organization has a certain threshold of contributions that must be received annually to stay
on the form. If an organization fails to meet the threshold, it drops off the next year. There's often competition
when a new listing becomes available.
The other bill of mine that's now in the Senate asks that Colorado seeks a waiver from the federal government to
allow more time 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 currently is allowed under federal law.
Currently, federal law says 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 prediction to be made for patients with a time period of nine months.
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.
A great highlight of my week was 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 the Youth Advisory Council had reviewed, and
they were prepared to give input about those bills to the legislators.
The legislators were busily competing with each other to ask questions of the youth council team and clearly were
interested in hearing the youth voice of Colorado, particularly in the area of education reform. It was incredibly
gratifying to see that the youth council has come fully into its own. I thank all the students from our area who
helped me write the bill to make the Youth Advisory Council become a reality.
Ellen Roberts, R-Durango, represents the 59th District in the state House of Representatives. Reach her by phone at
the Capitol, (303) 866-2914; fax, (303) 866-2218; home phone, 259-1594; or e-mail, firstname.lastname@example.org.