By Peter Osborne
Congressman Greg Landsman, during a recent regional youth mental health forum that he co-hosted with Beech Acres Parenting Center, announced that he has formally asked Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra to evaluate Medicaid coverage for mental health prevention, screening and family services, while also studying ways to increase access to prevention and early intervention services for children and adolescents who may display mental health concerns but do not yet have a diagnosis, effectively preventing their care.
“Our young people are struggling, and their mental health issues have become a community crisis,” Landsman said. “Today, in partnership with local mental health leaders, we’ve sent a letter to Secretary Xavier Becerra urging the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to pursue every opportunity to improve access to mental health services and supports. Only through broad and diverse coalitions involving local and federal partners can we get our young people the support they need.”
Landsman’s request was announced in connection with a regional youth mental health forum, attended by leading experts from hospitals and other providers, government leaders, schools, nonprofit agencies and funders. He noted a growing shortage of mental health professionals and the need to offer robust screenings, prevention and support through schools and community organizations to help children before they reach a crisis point.
Laura Mitchell, president and CEO of Beech Acres Parenting Center, praised this request of Secretary Becerra and urged mental health providers to join Congressman Landsman in advocating for funding that will address prevention.
“Expanded emphasis on early prevention and early diagnosis could make a huge difference now, and later in the lives of our children,” Mitchell said. “We need these services, and yet there is not enough work being done to increase proactive support for mental health in Ohio or the U.S. While improving capacity and treatment options are also important, we need to be doing it all to help our children, including innovative prevention strategies.”
Carrie Bunger, Ph.D., Beech Acres vice president of effective school solutions, expressed concern about access to care.
“In Ohio, Medicaid eligible kids can’t even access care without a mental health diagnosis.” Bunger reported. “That means that we’re giving 3-, 4- and 5-year-olds a potentially stigmatizing diagnosis, just so we can help them develop strong coping skills at a critical developmental age. With greater access to prevention dollars, we could empower families, teachers and communities to build resilience before the crisis happens.”
During the forum, Mitchell and Landsman also urged cross sector collaboration to address the ongoing mental health crisis in children, with experts in housing, employment, poverty, education and other critical sectors joining forces with mental health professionals to generate the greatest possible benefit for young people at the center of this crisis.