Last year was a good year for children’s mental health— Congress passed the Mental Health Reform Act of 2016, which was co-sponsored by Senator Chris Murphy of Connecticut. This legislation will help agencies like the Child Guidance Center (CGC) continue to provide evidence-based treatments to children like Manny, Brandon, Paula, and Jenna.
These children, all under the age of seven, have struggled with abuse, neglect or trauma, deeply impacting their mental health. The Mental Health Reform Act of 2016 ensures set-aside funding for evidence-based programs that address early serious mental illness, and provides grants that promote infant and early childhood mental health services.
In addition, the Mental Health Reform Act furthers earlier legislation ensuring parity between mental health care and physical health care. Earlier legislation mandated equal annual and lifetime dollar limits for mental health benefits and ensured that deductibles and treatment limitations for mental health were no more restrictive than for physical health. The Mental Health Reform Act of 2016 requires federal agencies to report on parity investigations and the Government Accountability Office to study mental health parity.
So why is mental health parity important to the Child Guidance Center of Southern Connecticut?
It is important because in spite of all of the legislation put forth, reimbursement rates for children’s mental health services are still incredibly low relative to physical health reimbursements. Poor reimbursement rates are why so many mental health providers in Fairfield County do not take private insurance. It is simply not worth their time.
At the Child Guidance Center of Southern Connecticut, we are dedicated to improving the mental and behavioral health of all children, regardless of their families’ ability to pay. We don’t turn away children like Manny who are on a state Medicaid plan, or children like Paula who are uninsured. While we receive reimbursements for providing critical services to privately insured children like Brandon, these reimbursements do not cover the cost of care. In fact, 99% of all of CGC’s clients require a subsidy to cover the cost of care. We are able to provide these services because of generous donations from individuals and private foundations.
Until there is true economic parity between mental health and physical health – that is, until the reimbursement rates for healthcare providers are equivalent – the Child Guidance Center of Southern Connecticut will always need private donations to meet the critical mental health needs of the children and families we serve.
In 2017, please reach out to your legislators to let them know about the importance of children’s mental health and the need for true economic parity between mental and physical health services. Contact information by town can be found at http://www.ct.gov.
And please continue to give generously to the Child Guidance Center of Southern Connecticut. Were it not for you, we could not provide high quality mental health services to children and families in our community.
Eliot Brenner, PhD
President and CEO
Child Guidance Center of Southern Connecticut