This week, the United States Senate unanimously approved the Children's Hospital GME Support Reauthorization Act of 2013. The legislation, which authorizes federal support for graduate medical education (GME) in freestanding children's hospitals, includes a provision authored by U.S. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) that extends the program to children's psychiatric hospitals like Bradley Hospital in Rhode Island. If this bill is signed into law, children's psychiatric hospitals will be eligible for the same CHGME funding that general hospitals have benefitted from for years.
Senators Whitehouse and Jack Reed (D-RI), original cosponsors of the legislation, have long advocated for the inclusion of Bradley and other children's psychiatric hospitals in the Children's Hospitals GME payment program. This would help address the shortfall in mental health professionals that specialize in treating children and adolescents. Senator Whitehouse's provision accomplishes this.
"We must support medical training programs that teach new health professionals how to treat children's mental and behavioral health conditions, not just physical ones," said Whitehouse, a member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee. "My provision will include children's psychiatric hospitals in the CHGME program, so these hospitals can build and sustain their residency programs. I was pleased the Senate acted in a bipartisan manner to pass the CHGME bill with this provision included, and I urge the House to act quickly to do the same."
"I have fought to address the omission of children's psychiatric teaching hospitals for years because I believe it is essential to end discriminatory funding policies against children with mental health issues. I commend Senators Casey, Isakson, Whitehouse, and others who helped broker this bipartisan agreement to include children's psychiatric teaching hospitals in the definition of a "children's hospital.' I remain committed to boosting mental health parity and ensuring that Bradley Hospital and other children's psychiatric teaching hospitals have the resources and federal support they need to train doctors equipped to treat mental illness," said Reed, a former member of the HELP Committee who has worked on this issue for over a decade.
"As the first children's psychiatric hospital in the United States, Bradley Hospital's mission has always been to provide family-centered mental health care to all children who need it," said Daniel J. Wall, Bradley Hospital president. "This legislation is a significant step in ensuring that not only do we have the best, most-qualified staff to care for children, but also that we are providing the crucial training needed to prepare the next generation of providers in what is a complex and ever-changing medical environment."
The Children's Hospital GME Support Reauthorization Act of 2013 will reauthorize the Children's Hospitals GME (CHGME) Payment Program for five years at $300 million per year. The bill authorizes the Secretary of Health and Human Services to use a portion of CHGME funds appropriated above $245 million for "qualified hospitals" that meet the requirements of the program but for technical reasons did not previously qualify.