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Support the Children’s Mental Health Accessibility Act

June 29, 2012

Take Action!

We have an important opportunity to make a big impact on federal legislation that will help families across the country who are caring for a child with intensive mental health needs.

For the past several years, nine states have had a Children’s Mental Health Demonstration Waiver. This waiver has given families a choice when it came to treatment for their child with intensive mental health needs. Before the waiver, families had to place their child in a Residential Treatment Center (RTC) often far from their home, making it difficult to see their child. The waiver provided an option for families to keep their child at home with intensive services “wrapped” around their child and family, hence the term “wraparound“. 

The Demonstration Waiver will end on September 30, 2012, unless it is reauthorized by Congress! That means that families will not have a choice when it comes to care for their child with intensive needs. This is particularly important for families with private insurance because under the waiver, the family’s income was not considered and the child was eligible for the waiver as a “family of one.” Jane Walker, Executive Director of the Maryland Coalition of Families for Children’s Mental Health underscored the importance of the waiver in her state (Maryland is one of the nine waiver states) by stating that “many families were able to avoid a Voluntary Placement Agreement (VPA) with the Department of Social Services because of the waiver. It is critical for families that the waiver continues.”

The Children’s Mental Health Accessibility Act would allow states conducting the demonstration to continue home and community-based services for children already enrolled in the program. The bill would also allow all states to initiate new waivers. All Medicaid home and community-based waiver rules would continue to apply, including budget neutrality rules.

S. 3289 will enable children and youth with mental health disorders to thrive in their own homes by providing services—such as peer support, family-to-family support, supported employment, and respite care—through home and community-based waivers. The legislation would also eliminate the outdated term “mentally retarded” as it is referenced in the Medicaid waiver statute, and replace it with “intellectually disabled.”

Senators Charles Grassley (Republican from Iowa) and John Kerry (Democrat from Massachusetts) have introduced the Children’s Mental Health Accessibility Act (S.3289) that would keep the option for children, even children with private insurance, to remain with their families and receive an array of community-based treatment services through wraparound. It is vital that legislators in Washington understand how important this Act is to families.

Thanks to the Bazelon Center for leading the way on this. See their action alert here.

Take Action Now

Strong bipartisan support is needed to enact S. 3289 in an election year with a lame duck session that will draw many competing priorities.

1. Send an email to your Senators on our Legislative Action site.

2. Call the Capitol switchboard at 202-224-3121 to contact your two U.S. Senators (find yours here) and urge them to:

  • Co-sponsor S. 3289, The Children’s Mental Health Accessibility Act of 2012.
  • Support enactment of S. 3289 this year
    • to promote community alternatives for children with serious mental disorders, and
    • to improve mental health parity for children with mental health disorders within the Medicaid 1915(c) waiver statute.
  • Remember: serving children with serious mental health disorders in their families’ homes results in better outcomes—and less than a third of the cost—than serving children in psychiatric residential treatment facilities.
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