Youth mental health has been worsening in recent years, and the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated these trends. Even before the pandemic, 20 percent of children had an identified mental health condition annually, and 40 percent meet criteria by age 18. Despite high rates of mental health conditions, only 10 percent receive mental health treatment. In 2019, 5.9 million adolescents and young adults had a substance use disorder, and only 6-7 percent received specialty treatment. Mental health issues are also a risk factor for substance use. The crisis is likely to deepen as a result of the stress brought on by COVID.

The American Academy of Pediatrics, American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, and Children’s Hospital Association recently declared a National State of Emergency in Children’s Mental Health, and the Surgeon General issued an advisory on protecting youth mental health, highlighting the severity of the crisis and the need to improve prevention and treatment for youth behavioral health.

The Strength Kids’ Mental Health Now Act would help address this growing crisis by fostering improvements across the full continuum of pediatric mental health and substance use disorder care. It would increase Medicaid payment rates for pediatric behavioral health services; provide guidance to states to expand access to mental health services, including telehealth and crisis services; and provide grants to support pediatric behavioral health care integration and coordination, expand the workforce, and improve the capacity of the pediatric behavioral health system.

Ask your representative to support the Strength Kids’ Mental Health Now Act to improve behavioral health care for youth.