New York can boost funds for children’s mental health – New York Daily News

In Governor Hochul’s State of the State address this month, she announced an unprecedented $1 billion investment in improved mental health services; it’s a bold step to meet the mental health needs of adults and children in New York State.

With nearly 20% of the state’s adults with mental health issues and college students showing increasing signs of mental health issues as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the governor’s foresight for this issue crescent is clear.

While applauding his efforts, we also suggest an additional measure that would improve access to mental health care for children. Additionally, half of the cost of implementing this measure would be offset by the federal government through Medicaid matching funds, allowing New York State to provide even more funds to support its students.

New York should dip into federal money.

The operation of this program is simple. Currently, schools in the state can only bill Medicaid for eligible services provided to students with IEPs — or Individual Education Plans — covering about 18 percent of public school students in the state. But if New York State adopted the policy of expanding Medicaid in federal schools, the state would see a major influx of millions of dollars in federal Medicaid funds to support health and mental health services for eligible students. to Medicaid (or approximately 1.4 million children) regardless of whether college students, who are already designated as “economically disadvantaged” in our state, are eligible for an IEP.

This measure, which was not included in last year’s budget despite calls from children’s advocacy organizations to include it, would benefit children, improve school services and, as noted, would in fact bring million in additional federal Medicaid funds to New York City school districts. , an opportunity New York should not and cannot afford to leave on the table.

The implementation of this federal opportunity, Medicaid school expansionis supported by the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) and is already operational in school districts in 17 states, including California and Massachusetts, and five more states are working to expand Medicaid.

The mental health needs of children and youth have steadily increased, exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic and persistent and negative social determinants, including systemic racial disparities. According to a recent survey, the percentage of children with anxiety or depression in New York State increased from 8.9% in 2016 to 10.9% in 2020, an increase of 22.5%.

The survey also indicated that 35% of New York City youth expressed a desire or need for mental health services from a mental health professional. For two years, the Student Health Coalition – New York State, comprised of upstate and downstate organizations, raised awareness of this important new school health opportunity with the state Department of Health and Department of Education , and won broad support from lawmakers, including chairs of health committees and some in leadership. Outside of government, major school districts in the state are also supportive.

Implementing Medicaid expansion in schools would represent a bold and necessary step forward in New York State’s efforts to meet the health and mental health needs of children. While we applaud the governor’s explicit proposal in his state of the state address to increase Medicaid payments for certain school services for children and to incentivize private insurers to pay for these services at rates of reimbursements, we believe that expanding Medicaid in school would provide children living in low-income families with much greater access to the resources needed to ensure their health, well-being and success.

It remains unclear why Albany has not already taken advantage of this spectacular opportunity offered by the federal government. At negligible cost to the state, medical and mental health services could be dramatically expanded for many of our most at-risk and vulnerable children. Then, instead of facing an uncertain future facing difficult health issues – and, for many, debilitating mental illness – more of our children will face a fulfilling and productive future contributing to prosperity and well-being. be of our state.

Please, Governor Hochul, do not pass up this opportunity for the most vulnerable citizens of this state and direct the Department of Health to seek a state plan amendment in your executive budget. The governor and legislative leaders of both parties should eagerly embrace this federal gift that will clearly benefit New York, its children and its future. It’s now. Our children can no longer wait for the mental health support they deserve.

Redlener is the co-founder and former executive director of Children’s Health Fund and Leader of the Coalition for Healthy Students – New York State; Brice is the Vice President for Policy and Advocacy at the Children’s Health Fund.

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