Today is national children’s mental health awareness day, which gives us a great opportunity to talk about a win for children’ mental health in this past legislative session. Thanks to a bill that passed this year, children don't have to worry about cuts to needed mental health services.
Back in 2007, the legislature passed a bill that, among other things, upped to 20 per year the number of therapy visits children on Medicaid could make to a mental health professional (the limit had been 12 per year.) That provision was set to expire on July 1, 2010.
This session, legislators passed a bill (HB 1373) to eliminate the expiration date on those services, allowing children to continue to get 20 therapy visits a year indefinitely.
Representative Mary Lou Dickerson, who sponsored both the 2007 and HB 1373 this legislative session, has been working on improving mental health services for children for a number of years now. The 2007 bill she sponsored declared the legislature’s intent to develop a system of children's mental health emphasizing early identification, intervention, and prevention with a greater reliance on evidence-based and promising practices.
In plainer English, lawmakers wanted kids to get the right services at the right place and time from the right kind of mental health providers.
National children’s mental health awareness day is supported by the federal Substance Abuse & Mental Health Services Administration, which this year is focusing on Thriving in the Community, with a special emphasis on how high school youth who receive the services they need are more likely to have positive outcomes, such as better grades, and less likely to have negative outcomes, such as involvement with the juvenile and criminal justice systems. You can read their report here.