WASHINGTON, D.C. – Children's hospitals thank the Bipartisan Addiction and Mental Health Task Force for introducing the 2021 legislative agenda, which calls for expanding access to mental health care for children and families. The bipartisan blueprint also addresses the nation's drug epidemic.
"We thank the co-chairs Reps. Annie Kuster, D-N.H., Brian Fitzpatrick, R-Pa., David Trone, D-Md., Jaime Herrera Beutler, R-Wash., and members of the Bipartisan Addiction and Mental Health Task Force for their continued support of children's mental health and the health of their families and communities," said Mark Wietecha, CEO of Children's Hospital Association. "These bipartisan legislative goals are critical policies that will help build access to care and save many lives."
Symptoms of depression and anxiety and risk of suicide among children and adolescents have increased
over the course of the pandemic. In the first half of 2021 alone, children's hospitals reported a 45% increase in cases of self-injury and suicide in children ages 5-17 than during the same time period in 2019.
Among the bills highlighted in the bipartisan blueprint are the Children's Mental Health Infrastructure Act (H.R. 4943) and the Helping Kids Cope Act (H.R. 4944), introduced by Reps. Lisa Blunt Rochester, D-Del., and Brian Fitzpatrick, R-Pa., which would provide funding to support pediatric mental health care programs and additional pediatric care capacity specific to behavioral and mental health services.
In addition to supporting the bills above, children's hospitals advocate a comprehensive approach to improving mental health services for children including:
- Strengthening mental health investment in Medicaid by increasing Medicaid reimbursement rates for pediatric mental, emotional and behavioral health services to 100% of Medicare levels for similar services.
- Extending and enhancing telehealth flexibilities beyond the Public Health Emergency, including coverage for audio-only services and lifting originating site restrictions and geographic limitations.
Momentum to prioritize the needs of children's mental health continues to build with a letter signed by 30 mental health organizations urging Majority Leader Schumer and Speaker Pelosi to take swift action to strengthen pediatric mental health care capacity and ensure children receive the right care, in the right setting, at the right time.