Carper, Cassidy, Wyden, Crapo Unveil Draft Policies to Improve Youth Mental Health Care Access

Discussion draft would strengthen mental health care access through Medicaid

WASHINGTON, D.C.—U.S. Senators Tom Carper (D-Del.) and Bill Cassidy (R-L.A.), co-chairs of the Senate Finance Committee’s working group on youth mental health, today joined Finance Committee Chair Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and Ranking Member Mike Crapo (R-Idaho) to release a discussion draft for youth mental health care policies. Today’s discussion draft comes as a part of the Finance Committee’s ongoing work to improve mental health care across the nation, which has included a public call for comments and four hearings to help develop these initiatives.

“After two years of a life-altering pandemic and worsening youth mental health crisis, it’s more important than ever to come together and ease the burden for kids across the country,” said Carper. “Our draft will make it easier for schools to provide vital mental health services to students on campus and more manageable for states to face head on an impending mental health crisis. Our nation’s children need someone to stand up for them and I’m proud that, alongside this bipartisan group, we’re doing just that.” 

“There has been a massive rise in youth mental health issues in the wake of the pandemic,” said Dr. Cassidy. “This bill ensures children and teens have access to quality care to have their needs addressed.”

“Young people across the country are facing unprecedented challenges, and it’s taking a devastating toll on their mental health,” said Wyden. “By strengthening access to mental health care through Medicaid — which covers half of all children in this country — the Finance Committee can make a real difference in helping kids get the care they need, whether that’s at home, in the doctor’s office, or at school. I’m proud that the committee was able to come together on a bipartisan basis to craft these policies, and I look forward to continuing that work in the coming weeks and months.”

“Although the pandemic is subsiding and our return to normalcy may be imminent, we cannot ignore the lasting effects of the past two years on the social and emotional well-being of children, whose needs require carefully tailored solutions,” said Crapo. “We should do all that we can, within the committee’s jurisdiction, to increase access to high-quality mental health services, and reduce the causes of delayed and forgone treatment.”

The discussion draft includes policies that would: 

  • Eliminate barriers to coordinated care by allowing all providers to receive Medicaid reimbursement for behavioral and physical health services delivered on the same day.
  • Support mental health care in schools by updating Medicaid guidance to states to clarify allowable payments and identify strategies to reduce administrative burden.
  • Improve enforcement and oversight of Medicaid’s Early and Periodic Screening, Diagnostic and Treatment (EPSDT) benefit, the country’s gold standard in children’s health coverage.
  • Streamline enrollment for out-of-state providers in another state’s Medicaid program.
  • Direct Medicaid to guide states on how they can cover treatment family care services for foster youth enrolled in Medicaid with intensive mental health needs.

Earlier this year, the Finance Committee announced five areas of focus for addressing shortfalls in mental health care: workforce, care integration, mental health parity, telehealth, and youth.

The full text of the discussion draft can be found here.