Lawmakers are pushing legislation to address mental health issues in children and teenagers.
U.S. Reps. Lisa Blunt Rochester, a Democrat from Delaware, and Brian Fitzpatrick, a Republican from Pennsylvania
The bipartisan duo have introduced the “Helping Kids Cope Act” (H.R. 2412). The measure would establish grant programs at the Health Resources and Services Administration to finance programs aimed at improving the mental health of adolescents.
Lawmakers say the bill is designed to ensure kids and teens with serious mental health needs can be placed in the right settings.
The grants would be directed to help children’s hospitals expand their capacity to offer behavioral health services. The bill is also aimed at reducing the number of adolescents that are stuck in emergency departments for behavioral health issues due to a lack of beds elsewhere.
The measure would also provide grants to train more people to pursue mental health careers in pediatrics. Children’s hospitals, rural health clinics, and federally qualified health centers would be eligible for those training grants.
The measure has been referred to the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, which has oversight on healthcare issues.
The Children’s Hospital Association is backing the measure.
“Our nation is experiencing a crisis in children’s mental health that is leaving too many children without the care they need,” Amy Wimpey Knight, president of the Children’s Association, said in a statement. “The Helping Kids Cope Act makes urgently needed investments in growing the pediatric behavioral health workforce and expanding access to a full spectrum of children’s mental health services, tailored to the unique needs of children, their families and their local communities.”
Hospital and healthcare leaders have been warning about the rising number of children and teens being hospitalized for mental health needs.
The number of mental health hospitalizations more than doubled from 2016 to 2022, according to a report by Clarify Health. Mental health hospitalizations among kids and young adults rose 124% during those years, the report states.
“We are seeing lots of kids with depression and anxiety,” Katy Welkie, Intermountain Health’s vice president of children’s health and CEO of Intermountain’s Primary Children’s Hospital, said in a December interview with Chief Healthcare Executive®.
The American Academy of Pediatrics, the Children’s Hospital Association and more than 100 other groups signed a letter in October asking President Biden to declare a national emergency due the youth mental health crisis.
“Emergency department visits for suspected youth suicide attempts have increased dramatically and those for eating disorders have doubled during the pandemic,” the letter stated.