The time is now. Massachusetts must ensure and expand effective mental health services for children and teens.
By Jake Murtaugh, Public Affairs Associate
The Children’s Mental Health Campaign began as a call to action to inspire mental health reform in Massachusetts and has evolved into a leading voice- so that children and youth get the right care, at the right time.
In 2006, The Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (MSPCC) and Boston Children’s Hospital (BCH) published “Children’s Mental Health in the Commonwealth: The Time is Now.” The study highlighted that the mental health system in Massachusetts was not providing appropriate care to children and teens and that “for too long the healthcare system, including its reimbursement structures, has minimized mental health as a core component of health care”. To answer the call for systemic reform, the Children’s Mental Health Campaign was born, and children’s health advocates created a broad-based mechanism to respond to an inadequate system of care for children and teens with mental and behavioral health needs.
On May 7th, 2007, the Campaign testified on increasing access to mental health services for children and teens before a State House audience. You may recognize some familiar faces!
The Campaign quickly gained support from providers, educators, consumers, and organizations, becoming an important driver for the passage of landmark legislation in the Commonwealth; Chapter 321, An Act Relative to Children’s Mental Health & Chapter 256, An Act Relative to Mental Health Parity. The Campaign grew from a collaboration of 34 organizations into a dynamic advocacy network of over 160 organizations dedicated to creating a system in which every child in the Commonwealth receives the highest quality mental health care, in the right place, at the right time.
The Children’s Mental Health Campaign continues its fight for mental health parity and for access to compassionate, effective care for children and teens in Massachusetts. Despite significant gains over the last decade, children and families continue to experience barriers to community-based behavioral health services in Massachusetts. The Campaign advocates for legislation and state budget funding in order to improve access to behavioral health care for children and teens across the Commonwealth.
The Campaign believes that Massachusetts must:
1. Support children in the community.
Because of the Children’s Behavioral Health Initiative (CBHI), children and teens in Massachusetts who have MassHealth coverage now have greater access to community-based treatment than their peers with commercial health insurance coverage.
Private insurers are not required to cover community and home-based care. This is a violation of mental health parity. Children and teens seeking mental and behavioral health support should have access to, and health coverage for, appropriate care, including community-based services. An Act to Increase Access to Children’s Mental Health Services in the Community (S.547) would mandate commercial insurers to cover community and home-based care, and would help strengthen parents’ ability to navigate the mental system and then access appropriate care for their children.
2. Make sure children and families know where to get care.
Too often health provider network directories are outdated and inaccurate. An Act to Increase Consumer Transparency About Insurance Provider Networks (S.538) will make sure parents know where to get the right services for their children. Provider directories should be tools for accessing the right care, and not a barrier.
3. Support young children- don’t expel them.
An expulsion early in life can have a lasting impact on a child’s educational and life outcomes. A young child who is suspended or expelled is 10 times more likely to drop out of high school, experience academic failure and grade retention, hold negative attitudes about school, and experience incarceration. An Act to Support Healthy Development Among Preschoolers (S.237) would help make sure that the expulsion of young children from their preschool settings is used only as a last resort, and would require the Department of Early Education and Care to issue performance specifications aimed to reduce expulsions, promote exclusion policies free of bias and discrimination, and encourage access to teaching supports.
ACTION ALERT: The Senate Ways and Means Budget was just released- and we need your help! Take action to make sure that our state Senate knows that Massachusetts residents stand with children and teens. Click here to send a message to your legislator in support of child mental health innovation in the Commonwealth!
This blog is part of HCFA’s Children’s Mental Health Week series.