On Wednesday, March 16 the Senate HELP Committee will take up a major draft bill to strengthen mental health services in the United States.  The committee will also address other legislation, including an amendment to CAPTA, building on that body’s recent attempts to address substance abuse.

Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) are attempting to building on their recent success in shepherding through a reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) by following a similar process. They have released a working draft called the Mental Health Reform Act of 2016.  The legislation has seven titles that include, federal departmental leadership and reforms, changes to innovation and evidence-based programs, reforms of the community mental health block grants, reforms of grants for mental health and substance use disorders, strengthening mental health and substance use services for children and youth, and improving patient care access to care.

Also for consideration on Wednesday, Senate Bills S 1455, Recovery Enhancement for Addiction Treatment Act,   S 2256, Co-prescribing Saves Lives Act,  and S 480, National All Schedules Prescription Electronic Reporting Reauthorization Act of 2015, The separate bills by Senator John Markey (D-MA), Senator Tim Kane (D-VA) and Senator Jean Shaheen (D-NH) are all expected to get consideration during the debate on the larger draft bill.

Specific to child welfare, the Plan of Safe Care legislation amends CAPTA by expanding on existing directives to states to have a plan of care for infants exposed to illegal substances or Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder.  The provision has never been implemented with any real thoroughness since the 2010 reauthorization of CAPTA but much of that is related to a lack of funding appropriated to CAPTA.

Currents state grants amount to under $26 million a year with over a dozen states receiving less than $200,000 a year for all of the CAPTA requirements.  That figure represents less than 32 cents per child.  The new legislation would include some specificity to state planning in regard to infants born exposed.  States would also include monitoring and assessing whether services are available.  The bill also directs HHS to monitor state actions as well as to come up with some best practices within 90 days of the bill’s enactment.

As has been the practice in recent years, funding to implement the CAPTA requirements would depend on appropriators providing an increase in state grants, something that has not happened since FY 2005.

To read a copy of the Mental Health Reform Act of 2016 {for additional information see the CWLA Membership Children’s Monitor Newsletter}

To read a copy of the Plan of Safe Care legislation {for additional information see the CWLA Membership Children’s Monitor Newsletter}

Weigh-in on this legislation by joining CWLA on April 18-20!