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Biden Administration Releases Report on Improving Mental Health Access for Children & Students

by Guila Todd | Oct 25, 2021

On October 19, the White House published a fact sheet announcing the release of a new report entitled “Supporting Child and Student Social, Emotional, Behavioral and Mental Health,” which will serve as a resource for improving the overall mental health of children and students. The fact sheet includes the administration’s current commitments to achieve this priority. The relevant commitments are summarized below:

Ensuring Access to Quality, Affordable Health Care

Creating Mental Health Resources for Schools

The Biden administration and the Department of Education will continue to provide resources that highlight evidence-based practices to support students’ social, emotional, and mental health needs. Past examples of these resources include:

Connecting Children to Coverage

To get as many eligible children as possible enrolled in Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), which provide coverage for mental health and substance abuse conditions, the Biden administration has launched a national outreach and enrollment campaign entitled “Connecting Kids to Coverage.” Additionally, the administration has quadrupled the number of navigator organizations available to help young people and their families enroll in coverage through HealthCare.gov and CHIP.

Strengthening Quality of Care

To strengthen quality of care for children enrolled in Medicaid and CHIP, states will be required to report all measures on the Medicaid and CHIP Child Core Set beginning in 2024. These encompass a range of quality-of-care measures for both physical and behavioral health services.

Investing in Community-Based Youth Mental Health and Substance Use Care

Dedicating American Rescue Plan Funds to Youth Mental Health

Under the American Rescue Plan, the administration provided:

  • $80M for the Pediatric Mental Health Care Access Program to promote integrated care for behavioral health needs in pediatric primary care settings
  • $20M to support youth suicide prevention programs to help reduce risks and deliver crisis services
  • $10M to support the National Child Traumatic Stress Network to raise the standard of care and improve access to services for traumatized children

Enhancing Access to Youth Behavioral Health Services Across the Continuum

To broaden access to behavioral health services, the Department of Health and Human Services, in collaboration with the administration, invested approximately $190 million in the following initiatives, among others:

  • Project LAUNCH (Linking Actions for Unmet Needs in Children’s Health): The program makes grants to promote the wellness of young children, from birth to 8 years of age, by addressing social, emotional, cognitive, physical, and behavioral aspects of their development.
  • The Children’s Mental Health Initiative: The program supports the implementation, expansion, and integration of the Systems of Care approach by creating sustainable infrastructure and services that are required as part of the Comprehensive Community Mental Health Services for Children and their Families Program.
  • The Infant and Early Childhood Mental Health Grant Program: The program makes grants to develop, maintain, or enhance infant and early childhood mental health promotion, intervention, and treatment services.
  • The Youth and Family TREE Grant Program: The program enhances and expands comprehensive treatment, early intervention, and recovery support services for adolescents, transitional aged youth, and their families or primary caregivers with substance use disorders and/or co-occurring substance use and mental disorders.

Enhancing Coordination Across HHS

Establishing the Behavioral Health Coordinating Council

To coordinate efforts to address mental health needs, the Department of Health and Human Services has established the Behavioral Health Coordinating Council (BHCC). One of the Council’s five priorities is child and youth behavioral health. In the coming months, BHCC will lead efforts to:

  • Improve the coordination and access to behavioral health services for children, youth, and parents involved or at risk of entering the child welfare system
  • Ensure children and youth are accessing behavioral health services and supports in the most integrated setting possible
  • Identify opportunities to support resilience in children affected by trauma and disasters

Increasing Access to Telehealth Services

Requesting Investment in Telehealth Services in the FY22 Budget Request

In his fiscal year 2022 budget, the President requested $10 million for the Pediatric Mental Health Care Access Program, which supports the development or improvement of statewide or regional pediatric mental health care telehealth access programs.

As behavioral health needs among young people continue to rise, driven in large part by the COVID-19 pandemic, the Biden administration continues to prioritize expanded access to affordable, quality mental health services across the continuum of prevention, treatment, and recovery. The American Counseling Association will continue to monitor and update our members on plans to improve mental health access for students. If you have questions, please email advocacy@counseling.org.

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