Investments in children’s behavioral health represent a critical window of opportunity for fostering healthy child development and nurturing the resilience necessary for lifelong well-being. With over 40 percent of U.S. children and youth relying on the Medicaid system for healthcare coverage, it presents a platform to significantly enhance early intervention and prevention services, particularly for vulnerable children. Federal and state policymakers are increasingly active in formulating policies that prioritize investments in initiatives promoting mental and physical health at this pivotal developmental stage.
Health Management Associates (HMA) has partnered with the National Association of State Mental Health Program Directors (NASMHPD) Technical Assistance Coalition to produce a series of briefs that characterize the opportunities to improve coordination of services for children. Beyond the statistics lie the stories of countless vulnerable children and families facing immediate and critical needs. Addressing these issues requires comprehensive cross-system reforms, including policies that promote integrated financing, enhance care coordination, facilitate provider collaboration, and bolster upstream prevention efforts.
The importance of socio-emotional wellbeing as core to childhood development is underscored by evidence-based models and approaches, which consistently demonstrate the substantial value and long-term impact of investing in children’s mental and behavioral health. These investments not only benefit children and adolescents but also extend their positive effects to primary caregivers, creating a comprehensive and sustainable framework for fostering well-rounded, mentally resilient, and physically healthy lives.
The insights and recommendations presented in these briefs* underscore the urgency of coordinated action to improve the well-being of our nation’s youth and the opportunity for collaborative approaches to improve outcomes:
- Bolstering The Youth Behavioral Health System: Innovative State Policies To Address Access & Parity (previously published in 2022)
- System Integration Across Child Welfare, Behavioral Health, And Medicaid (previously published in 2022)
- State Policy and Practice Recommendations to Advance Improvements in Children’s Behavioral Health*
- Improving Outcomes for Children in Crisis with Evidence-Based Tools*
- The Role of Specialized Managed Care in Addressing the Intersection of Child Welfare Reform and Behavioral Health Transformation*
- Early Childhood Mental Health: the Importance of Caregiver Support in Promoting Healthy Child Development and Clinical Interventions for Children*
- Connecting Schools to the Larger Youth Behavioral Health System: Early Innovations from California*
*Briefs 3-7 were funded by SAMHSA’s TT1 grant award for FY 2023.
This is part of a larger effort supported by HMA and a number of partner organizations, including NASMHPD, The Annie E. Casey Foundation, Casey Family Programs, MITRE, National Association of Medicaid Directors (NAMD), Child Welfare League of America (CWLA), and the Federal Government agencies ACF and SAMHSA, to help create a dialogue among state agencies and stakeholders working to improve child welfare. The briefs HMA released are a starting point for much of the upcoming dialogue. A federal policy discussion is being held at SAMHSA in mid-November.
Recognizing the complexity of the challenges that lie ahead, it is evident that no single agency can tackle them in isolation. This approach requires adequate funding and robust partnerships at all levels, from local to state and federal. HMA and our partners are producing a unique convening of state agencies promoting a collective approach to improving child-centered care, one that emphasizes child and family-centered practices and fosters local collaborations across each community’s system of care. This invitation-only event in early February 2024 will convene eight state government child welfare agencies and experts to develop methods for improving their services.
The work HMA is doing with our partners highlights the gravity of the problems while providing inspiring examples of successful collaborations from across the country. By examining what works in these models, the way forward becomes evident —a path toward the development of more seamless systems of care for children and youth grappling with behavioral health needs. As states and communities navigate these critical issues, we put forward this body of work as a valuable resource, offering insights and strategies to transform our approach to children and youth well-being and behavioral health support.
HMA will be sharing more about this effort in the coming months, including a webinar with our partners on December 12; registrants will receive a summary of the findings following the February 2024 event. If you want to learn more about this and other initiatives in child behavioral health, please contact HMA children’s behavioral health experts Caitlin Thomas-Henkel and Uma Ahluwalia.
Timeline of Key Events
- November 3, 2023: Release of SAMHSA funded briefs
- November 16, 2023: Federal Policy Convening (private)
- December 12, 2023: HMA Webinar featuring Partner Agencies to discuss federal convening insights, plans for February State Policy Lab. Register here.
- February 7-8, 2024: State Policy Lab (invitation only)
- Dates TBD: Release of blueprint/insights from State Policy Lab