Prather Pediatric and Allergy Center - Ask Doctor Brent

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Title: Children First Legislation and Access to Mental Health

Category: Access To Children's Health Care


Later this summer, Representative Matsui will introduce his "Children First" Legislation in Congress. There have been similar proposals by several senators and representatives in our Congress. One of the proposals getting a lot of attention was presented by George Mitchell, Senate Majority Leader in June. Another sponsored by J. Rockafeller and Donald Reigal is "Health America". (Affordable Health Care for All Americans Act) or Senate Act 1227.

The "Children First" and "Health America" Acts are all intent on providing care for children who are not now insured and not receiving adequate immunizations and general care. This would require refocusing Medicaid dollars in a more efficient way to provide better preventive services and better prenatal and well child and adolescent care. Neither of the packages so far takes care of dental or prescription drug needs. Also they do not support the EPSDT (early and periodic screening, diagnosis and treatment) program which is now in force. The American Academy of Pediatrics is hopeful that the ultimate bill coming out of all of these bills will provide better access to care for children and begin to provide for the basic health care needs of about thirty percent of the children in our country who do not receive them today.

Another big problem for children in our country, state and community is access to mental health. Rep. Henry Waxman, Democrat of California, has introduced the Community Mental Health Services Improvement Act of 1991 or HR2311. This calls for mental health services to be provided in all communities in a cooperative manner; including special education, juvenile justice and child welfare services. The American Academy of Pediatrics supports these federal efforts and is working with the states to help develop comprehensive, community based mental health services so that these will be available to all children as part of the Children First access plan. Introduction of these bills is the first step and further action is expected later this summer. Anyone interested in getting involved in this campaign for better access to mental health for our children should support House Bill 2311 and Senate Bill 9224. Information on these can be received from Susan Campbell at the American Academy of Pediatrics Washington office by dialing 1-800-336-5475.

In summary, the American Academy of Pediatrics is actively involved legislatively on a national and state-by-state level to continue efforts to better provide care for all children in our society.