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

US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS)

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Agencies across the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) recently 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. “[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.

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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.
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Read the full letter on HRSA.gov.

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