WASHINGTON — U.S. Senators Bob Casey, D-Pa., and Bill Cassidy, R-La., introduced legislation to support children and teens with mental health or substance use disorders. The Health Care Capacity for Pediatric Mental Health Act would create new grant programs to help healthcare providers expand mental health services for youth. Investments would go toward making treatment more accessible, training the healthcare workforce and strengthening partnerships between healthcare providers and communities.

Mental health disorders have long been among the leading causes of death and disability in young people, affecting about one in five children. For over a decade, there has been an alarming rise in youth suicide, making suicide the second leading cause of death for youth ages 10-14.

“For many young people navigating mental health or substance use disorders, the pandemic exacerbated the everyday challenges they face. It has never been more clear — we need to fill in the many gaps in mental health care for kids. This legislation would ramp up efforts to expand the workforce that provides this crucial care while improving resources for kids who need care in their communities,” said Casey.

“The pandemic took an unprecedented toll on our children’s mental health,” said Cassidy. “This bill addresses gaps in the pediatric mental health system, so no child falls through the cracks.”

The grant programs established by the Health Care Capacity for Pediatric Mental Health Act would fund efforts to improve behavioral health integration, the practice of coordinating physical and mental health services as well as community-based resources. It would also support data collection on behavioral healthcare needs and modernize and improve mental health services through telehealth and many sites of care.

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