Voices’ Blog

Federal Issues: What candidates should be talking about

Posted:  -  By: Voices for VA's Kids

If you’ve watched television, surfed the internet, or listened to the radio lately, you know we’re in the midst of campaign season. Ads from the presidential candidates as well as those for U.S. Congress are flooding the airwaves. How often do you hear the candidates talk about children’s issues? Or specifically about children’s mental health?

At Voices for Virginia’s Children, we’re trying to make sure that candidates discuss the issues that are important to the children and families of Virginia. We are providing information about key children’s issues at the federal level to Virginia’s candidates for the Senate: Democrat Tim Kaine and Republican George Allen. The Campaign for Children’s Mental Health is a major initiative of Voices, so we want to make sure that these and other Virginia candidates for federal office understand children’s mental health issues. After all, 1 in 5 kids have mental health disorders, and only 20% of THOSE kids are getting the treatment they need. When you think about how many adults care about those kids, that’s a lot of voters!

We’ve compiled a one page document on federal issues outlining three key issues to which candidates need to pay attention:

Looming budget cuts: If Congress fails to take action by year’s end, sequestration will take effect, and Health and Human Services (HHS) agencies will take a minimum of a 7.8% cut. This affects children’s mental health because funding for the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) will be cut, affecting how much money states get for children’s mental health services both through the Mental Health Block Grant and the Children’s Mental Health Initiative. A current HHS budget proposal by the House would cut SAMHSA’s budget by $552 million of fiscal year 2012. Access to mental health services is already difficult in Virginia; these types of budget cuts will make it even less likely that children will get the treatment they need.

Future of the Affordable Care Act: ACA has many provisions that make it easier for children with mental health disorders to receive treatment, including:

  • Providing access to insurance for children with pre-existing conditions
  • Providing free preventive care, including counseling for depression and well-child checkups where primary care doctors can help identify any mental health challenges
  • Eliminating lifetime limits on insurance coverage of essential benefits and regulating annual limits; this is important for children who have experienced multiple hospital stays in an effort to stabilize their mental health condition.

Giving parents the choice of moving kids out of residential treatment facilities for treatment: Virginia is one of nine states that has had a Children’s Mental Health Demonstration Waiver since 2007. Without Congressional action, the waiver program will expire this September. The waiver program — part of Medicaid — needs to be continued because it allows children to be treated in their communities rather than in a psychiatric residential facility when they have intense treatment needs.

Read more details in our one page document on federal issues. Then, when the candidates for federal office appear in your district, you’ll be prepared to ask them what they will do about the 1 in 5 kids in Virginia with a mental health disorder.

Questions? Contact Margaret Nimmo Crowe, Campaign Coordinator



Photo of the U.S. Capitol by Peter Griffin, available at http://www.publicdomainpictures.net/view-image.php?image=3319&picture=us-capitol.


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