Statements on Introduced Bills and Joint Resolutions

Floor Speech

By:  John Kerry
Date: June 13, 2012
Location: Washington, DC

Mr. KERRY. Mr. President, each year nearly 3 million youth receive mental health services to address a range of issues including depression, severe mental illness, and suicide prevention. When youth with mental health needs are treated early, with the most appropriate care for their situation, they are more likely to have positive outcomes during both their childhood and their adult life.

I have worked with my colleague Senator GRASSLEY on a bipartisan bill that will expand the Medicaid 1915(c) waiver to provide an option to serve children and adolescents with intensive home or community-based treatment services in lieu of being treated as inpatients in a psychiatric residential treatment facility. There are currently nine States participating in a 1915(c) waiver demonstration focused on children and adolescents, which expires in September of this year. Data has shown that the youth served through this demonstration waiver have had positive outcomes, have been able to stabilize, and have had significant improvement in mental and behavioral health. The waiver gives States more flexibility to offer the most appropriate mental health services for children on Medicaid. Without access to intensive home or community-based services, these children could otherwise be institutionalized. The waiver expansion will allow more States the opportunity to provide cost-effective care that best meets their children's mental health needs.

In addition, this bill officially removes the outdated term ``mentally retarded'' from the Social Security Act and replaces it with the phrase ``intellectually disabled''. In 2010, the President enacted the bipartisan Rosa's Law which removed the words ``mentally retarded'' from federal health, education and labor laws. This bill takes the necessary step of removing this obsolete term from a significant portion of the U.S. Code.

I would like to recognize Youth Villages, which has been integral to the development of this legislation. More than 30 organizations are supportive of this bill, including the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, the American Association of People with Disabilities, American Psychiatric Association, Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law, Child Welfare League of America, First Focus Campaign for Children, National Alliance on Mental Illness, National Council on Independent Living, and the Arc of the United States.

I look forward to continued progress in improving mental health treatment options for our youth and ask all of my colleagues to support this important legislation.