Last Tuesday and Wednesday two key congressional committees began a set of bipartisan discussions on the challenges of access to mental health and substance use services.  On Tuesday the Senate HELP Committee held their first hearings and on Wednesday the House Ways and Means Committee focused hearings on the behavioral health challenges.  The subject and tone, except for a few limited discordant comments about the U.S. border, stayed both focused and bipartisan. (See the following articles for more detail and specifics.)

Next up is the Senate Finance Committee. Last month Chairman Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Ranking Member Mike Crapo (R-ID) announced a hearing on mental health and substance use issues as a follow up to last year’s solicitations of recommendations for making improvements.

Last November, the Child Welfare League of America submitted its recommendations to the Senate Finance Committee on how the Committee and country can make critical changes to the nation’s mental health and substance use treatment systems.

The first of their hearings is this week, Protecting Youth Mental Health: Part I, Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy will testify on a new report on youth mental health on Tuesday with the hearing starting at 10:00 AM.

In that letter CWLA stated, “Accessing and addressing mental health services is a significant component and challenge within child welfare (including child protection). Thoroughly screening children and families involved with the child welfare and foster care system and providing appropriate treatment, is essential. Primary prevention efforts, family preservation, reunification, adoption, and all forms of permanence requires addressing barriers created by behavioral health needs.”


Building on those earlier steps, the Finance Committee announced that ten members of the Finance Committee will serve as bipartisan co-chairs.  These senators will divide up the work in five issue areas.  The subgroups are:  Strengthening the workforce: Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) and Senator Steven Daines (R-MT);  Increasing integration, coordination and access to care: Senator Catherine Cortez-Masto (D-NV) and Senator John Cornyn (R-TX); Ensuring parity between behavioral and physical health care: Senator Michael Bennet (D-CO) and Senator Richard Burr (D-NC), Furthering the use of telehealth: Senator Ben Cardin (D-MD) and Senator John Thune (R-SD) and Improving access to behavioral health care for children and young people: Senator Thomas Carper (D-DE) and Senator Bill Cassidy R-LA)