Senators John Kerry (D-Mass.) and Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) today introduced bipartisan legislation to expand and strengthen mental health services for children on Medicaid. The legislation would also strike the antiquated term "mentally retarded" from the Social Security Act.
"This legislation would give families trying their best to help their children live with mental illness more options for alternative care in small settings," said Sen. Kerry. "This is an effort to remove outdated stigmas and empower parents to help the children they love."
"The federal government should give states incentives to use community-based settings for children with intensive mental health needs," said Sen. Grassley. "This bipartisan legislation will give states the tools they need to provide care through smaller settings."
The Kerry-Grassley Children's Mental Health Accessibility Act 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. 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.
Additionally, the bill will remove the term "mentally retarded" from the Social Security Act and replace it with "intellectually disabled." In 2010, President Obama enacted the bipartisan Rosa's Law which removed the words "mentally retarded" from federal health, education and labor laws. The Kerry-Grassley legislation builds off the successful results of Rosa's Law by removing this obsolete term from a significant portion of the U.S. Code.
The Children's Mental Health Accessibility Act is endorsed by over 35 major advocacy groups, including the Alliance for Children and Families, the American Psychiatric Association, the American Association of People with Disabilities (AAPD), and the National Alliance on Mental Illness.