A Healthy Blog

Massachusetts health care — wonky, with a healthy dose of reality

Children’s Mental Health Awareness - The Week is Now

Children’s Mental Health Awareness - The Week is Now

May 4, 2011

National Children’s Mental Health Awareness Week (May 1-7, 2011) is an opportune time to take stock of the accomplishments of the Children’s Mental Health Campaign in Massachusetts, but also to recall the important steps we still need to take to expand access to effective, high quality and well integrated/ coordinated care for all children with mental health needs.

The good news is that we’ve come a long way in making Massachusetts a national leader in children’s mental health. Since passage of two landmark laws in 2008 – An Act Relative to Children’s Mental Health and An Act Relative to Mental Health Parity – the Campaign has succeeded in helping implement the laws by:

  • Taking an active leadership role in the Children’s Behavioral Health Advisory Council
  • Ensuring monitoring of CBHI performance via the state budget
  • Preserving state funding for children’s mental health services during the worst recession in a generation
  • Enhancing school-based mental health capacity
  • Improving the integration and effectiveness of state agencies responsible for mental health care
  • Mandating new protocols that have helped reduce the number of children “stuck” in inappropriately restrictive settings by more than 60%

The diverse coalition of organizations supporting the Campaign has now blossomed to more than 138 partners.  This growth signals our commitment to staying engaged, ensuring effective implementation of existing laws and working with stakeholders and government to address the many challenges that remain.  The Campaign is working hard to ensure that children’s mental health is explicitly considered in payment reform discussions.

Two of the most important issues where we need your support involve: (1) improving the coordination of care for commercially insured children; and, (2) diverting children with mental health needs from inappropriate juvenile justice systems approaches to more prevention oriented, community based services:

(1) Coordination of Care: This bill would require that commercial health insurers reimburse licensed mental health professionals for coordinating a child’s care with families, teachers, pediatricians, counselors, day-care providers and other adults who regularly interact with at-risk children in order to make a diagnosis or to formulate or to implement a treatment plan.  Lack of care coordination reduces patient safety and quality of care, but when all adults who interact with at-risk children are on the same page, they’re able to understand the issues facing the child and how best to work with and help that child.   This bill costs the state nothing and would only cost commercial insurers 66 cents per member, per year.

(2) Juvenile justice reform-CHINS: This legislation would replace the failing court-based Children in Need of Services (CHINS) system with a new Families and Children Engaged in Services (FACES) system. FACES would create a statewide system of community-based preventive services that would help keep kids in their homes and schools and avoid using the courts, police and probation to solve family issues. The current system is especially problematic for the more than 50% of CHINS-involved youth with mental illness, who need access to treatment and support to help them build strong connections with their families and communities.

The success of the Children’s Mental Health Campaign has depended on our ability to put a face to the problems facing children with mental health issues and to get many stakeholders involved in telling their stories and contacting legislators and other policymakers.  We need your help to pass CHINS reform and support greater coordination of care.  Please visit our website at www.childrensmentalhealthcampaign.org, follow us on twitter @kidsMHmass or “like” us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/kidsMHmass. The time is NOW.