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HHS Leaders Urge States to Maximize Efforts to Support Children’s Mental Health

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Building on Secretary Becerra’s National Tour to Strengthen Mental Health, HRSA, CMS, SAMHSA, CDC, ACF, and ACL commit to working with states, tribes, and jurisdictions to best leverage federal resources.

Today, agencies across the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) issued a joint letter to states, tribes, and jurisdictions encouraging them to prioritize and maximize their efforts to strengthen children’s mental health and well-being. The letter, signed by leaders of the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Administration for Children and Families (ACF), and the Administration for Community Living (ACL), outlines HHS’ plans to support and facilitate state-level coordination across federal funding streams to advance and expand mental health services for children.

“At HHS, I have called on our leaders across the entire Department to work together and pull every available lever to support President Biden’s call to strengthen the mental health of Americans,” said HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra. “Today, we are encouraging our state, tribal, and community partners to do the same, especially for our littlest ones. The Biden-Harris Administration is committed to providing critical mental health services for children and their families to build resilience and thrive.”

According to data from the National Survey of Children’s Health, the number of children ages 3-17 years diagnosed with anxiety grew by 29 percent and those with depression by 27 percent between 2016 and 2020. Between 2019 and 2020, there was a 21 percent increase in children diagnosed with behavioral or conduct problems. Given these increases, HHS agencies are encouraging recipients to coordinate on using these funds to create meaningful and equitable approaches to children’s mental health needs and to expanding access to high quality pediatric mental health care.

As HHS recognizes National Mental Health Awareness Month in May, the letter highlights opportunities to strengthen the health care system’s capacity to meet mental health needs, connect more people to care, and create a continuum of support to address mental health comprehensively and equitably by coordinating across federal programs including:

Examples of coordination opportunities include:

  • Developing a statewide children’s mental health task force that coordinates children’s mental health data across Title V, Medicaid and CHIP, Title IV-E, early childhood programs, and the state mental health authorities to identify service and benefit gaps and develop a statewide response strategy to expand mental health screening, prevention, and treatment services for children.
  • Increasing the delivery of Medicaid Early and Periodic Screening, Diagnostic, and Treatment-eligible mental health screenings and services for children by leveraging the Title V Maternal and Child Health Services Block Grant to conduct statewide training and technical assistance for pediatric and family medicine providers on integrating pediatric primary care and mental health services.

Read the full letter on HRSA.gov (PDF | 585 KB).

Today’s announcement is part of HHS’ ongoing efforts to support President Joe Biden’s whole-of-government strategy to transform mental health services for all Americans—a key part of the President’s Unity Agenda that is reflected in the President’s Fiscal Year 2023 budget. Following the President’s State of the Union in March, Secretary Becerra kicked off the HHS National Tour to Strengthen Mental Health to address the mental health challenges that have been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, including substance use, youth mental health, and suicide. Since kicking off the tour, Secretary Becerra and HHS leaders have been traveling across the country to hear directly from Americans about the mental health challenges they’re facing and engage with local leaders to strengthen the mental health and crisis care system in our communities.

Health Resources and Services Administration Administrator Carole Johnson: “As the home of the federal Maternal and Child Health Services Block Grant, we are committed to the mental health and well-being of our Nation’s children. We are pleased to partner with our sister agencies across the Department to work together to help states best leverage their federal programs and resources to address the critical mental health needs of children and to expand access to high quality pediatric care, including mental health services. The time for action is now and we look forward to working with our state partners on this effort.”

Assistant Secretary for Mental Health and Substance Use, Miriam E. Delphin-Rittmon, Ph.D.: “SAMHSA remains dedicated to providing accessible and culturally appropriate quality mental health care for America’s children and young adults. Our grant programs and technical assistance centers help expand access to proven prevention, intervention, treatment, and recovery services and supports, while developing new and innovative solutions to strengthen mental health services in communities across the country.”

Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services Administrator Chiquita Brooks-LaSure: “CMS is committed to connecting people to the high-quality health care – including access to mental health services available through Medicaid and CHIP. We're coordinating closely with our federal partners and encourage states to do the same to build a healthier America that focuses on treating the whole person, with our nation's children at the forefront of that effort.”

Administration for Children and Families Assistant Secretary January Contreras: “ACF is passionate about supporting the mental health of all children and youth. As part of our overall mission, ACF strives to ensure that families and communities have the tools they need to thrive, including their physical, economic, and mental well-being. We are honored to work alongside our HHS partners to strengthen the ability of states, tribes, and communities to leverage federal funding and maximize opportunities available through ACF programs that strengthen the mental health and well-being of all children and youth.”

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Rochelle Walensky, M.D., M.P.H.: “CDC’s evidence-based primary prevention programs and mental health resources provide critical support to child and adolescent mental health. It is vital that we protect the mental health of our nation’s youth as it is fundamental to their overall health and lifelong well-being. At CDC, we are committed to working to make the necessary resources widely available.”

Administration for Community Living Acting Administrator, Alison Barkoff: ACL’s programs work together to improve outcomes and advance inclusion and equal opportunities for people with disabilities. Effective, coordinated support for children with disabilities, including those with mental health needs, and their families is critical. ACL is committed to working with our partners across HHS and the federal government, and with states and communities, to make the services these children and their families need more available and easier to access.

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The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) is the agency within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) that leads public health efforts to advance the behavioral health of the nation. SAMHSA's mission is to reduce the impact of substance abuse and mental illness on America's communities.

Last Updated

Last Updated: 05/25/2022