HB 2439 intends to improve access to adequate, appropriate, and culturally responsive mental health services for children and youth. This bill would address disparities in accessing mental health services between those with Medicaid Apple Health plans and private plans as well as diagnosis and initiation of treatment services for children of color. The bill would mandate the creation of a children’s mental health work group to identity barriers for mental health services for children and families and advise the legislature on statewide mental health services for this population. The work group would be tasked to focus in particular on children from age birth to five to review. The work group would be mandated to: recommend appropriate assessment tools to establish eligibility for services, identify billing issues related to serving this population, review workforce issues related to serving this population, recommend strategies for increasing the number of professionals qualified to provide these services, and make recommendations on the development and adoption of standards for the training and endorsement of these professionals. The work group’s findings shall be reported to the appropriate committees of the legislature by December 1, 2016. The bill would further instruct the state health care authority and the Department of Social and Human Services to report on the adequacy and access to mental health services for children age birth to seventeen to the appropriate committees of the legislature by December 1, 2017 and annually thereafter. The bill would further amend current statute to mandate the state health care authority to require universal screening and provider payment for depression for children ages eleven through twenty-one effective January 1, 2017 subject to the availability of funds.
Summary of changes in substitute:
The substitute bill expands the membership of the Work Group to 25 members and adds representatives from several groups that provide children’s mental health services. It also clarifies several of the Work Group review tasks and adds an additional requirement that the group provide strategies for successfully disseminating information on available mental health services for children and families. The substitute bill directs the JLARC to conduct an inventory of the mental health service models available to students in schools, school districts, and the ESDs and report its findings to the Legislature by October 31, 2016.
As amended by the House of Representatives, the bill:
- Modifies the intent to state that the legislature intends to encourage the use of behavioral health therapies and other therapies that are empirically supported or evidence-based and only prescribe medications for children and youth as a last resort.
- Requires that medical assistance programs cover annual universal screening and provider payments for depression for children ages 13 through 21 (rather than 11 through 21 as initially drafted).
Amendments in Senate Human Services: Eliminates PALS Plus Pilot. JLARC must perform the inventory of mental health treatment models within current appropriations. The Legislature intends to discourage the overuse of psychotropic medications for children and youth, instead of only prescribe medications for children and youth as a last resort. The substitute bill requires the Authority and the Department to report on the percentage of children served by RSNs and BHOs for purposes of the network adequacy review. Additionally, the substitute bill establishes the PAL Plus pilot program to provide an additional level of child mental health support services in a rural region of the state. It clarifies that the Bright Futures Guidelines recommend an annual depression screening for children ages 11 through 21. Eliminates requirement for the Health Care Authority to require universal annual screening and provider payment for depression for children ages 13 to 21.
The following amendments were adopted and engrossed by the Senate:
- Eliminates the requirement that medical assistance programs cover annual universal screening and provider payments for depression for children ages 13 through 21.
- Requires that the Forefront at the University of Washington convene a one-day, in-person training for student support staff from the educational services districts (ESDs) in order to increase their capacity to assist schools in responding to concerns about suicide. Forefront is required to provide supports to the ESDs on a monthly basis via videoconferencing and to assess the feasibility of developing a multiyear, statewide rollout of a comprehensive school suicide prevention model implemented with the support of public-private partnerships. The Senate amendment also provides requirements for the comprehensive school suicide prevention model and requires Forefront to report its recommendations to the Legislature by December 15, 2017.
- Makes section 6 of the bill (related to youth suicide screening and referral in educational school districts) subject to the availability of amounts appropriated for this specific purpose and exempts section 6 from the null and void clause.