Children’s mental health draws attention from state legislature

Children’s mental health draws attention from state legislature

By Azeb Tuji

WNPA News Service

In the wake of the pandemic, Seattle Children’s Hospital reports that an increasing number of children need outpatient mental health treatment, but there are not enough providers to meet the demand.

“The devastating consequence of not being able to access outpatient care is that you are at risk of getting worse and needing emergency service or crisis care,” said Kashi Arora, of Seattle Children’s Hospital.

House Bill 1800, currently before the state legislature, creates a behavioral task force to identify barriers to behavioral health services for families. It also helps develop a behavioral health plan for children and their caregivers.

“We have to make sure that we don’t perpetuate a behavioral health system that revolves around crisis, that revolves around critical care, but that is also very much about prevention, early education… and making sure we serve everyone who needs care when and where they need it,” said Rep. Lisa Callan, D-Issaquah, lead sponsor of the proposals.

Callan said the committee began work on the bill after seeing a steep curve in behavioral health needs.

The bill requires the Health Care Authority (HCA) to dedicate at least one full-time employee who focuses on connecting families, behavioral health providers, educators and other stakeholders with information to update on behavioral health services for minors. The HCA has requested $584,000 to cover expenses for the 2023-25 ​​biennium.

“We urgently need a system of care for children and families, one that is intentional and cohesive that brings together support for families from the start, that provides timely access to mental health care, that sets goals, measures results and is a community-based team approach,” said Dr. Mary Ann Woodruff of the Washington Chapter American Academy of Pediatrics.

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