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Courtney Announces House Committee Passes Mental Health Bill Which Includes A Portion Of His Bill To Support Child Psychiatrists

June 16, 2016
Press Release
The Courtney provision will enable child and adolescent psychiatrists to apply for slots in the National Health Service Corps Program

WASHINGTON, D.C. —Today, Congressman Joe Courtney (CT-02) announced that yesterday the House Energy and Commerce Committee unanimously passed the Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act, H.R. 2646. The bill includes a section of the bipartisan Improving Access to Pediatric Subspecialists Act, H.R. 1859, which Courtney co-leads with Rep. Chris Collins (R-NY).

“I was very pleased by the strong bipartisan support for the mental health bill passed yesterday which includes a section of my bill to add child and adolescent physiatrists to the National Health Service Crops,” said Courtney. “In the wake of the most recent mass shooting in this country, we are reminded of a time in the aftermath of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting when there was an extreme need for trained child psychiatrists to address the mental health needs of young people. We know that when children experience trauma or mental illness at a young age, it can have a profound impact on the rest of their lives. We owe it to our children to make sure we are providing enough psychiatric providers to care for them.

“The National Health Service Corps is a critical government initiative run by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) that brings vital healthcare professionals to practice in underserved geographic areas. The section of my bill included today will support physicians who want to specialize in providing psychiatric services to children in underserved areas. We know that there is interest among medical students to enter highly specialized fields such as child and adolescent psychiatry, but the high costs associated with obtaining a medical degree can be prohibitive. By providing an option for physicians to receive student loan repayments and scholarships in return for practicing in an underserved area, we can incentivize medical students to enter into this specialty.

“Mental illness impacts 1 in every 5 of America’s young people and, unfortunately, we are facing an extreme shortage of health care professionals equipped to care for these individuals,” said Collins. “Passage of yesterday’s mental health bill, which included critical provisions to incentivize child and adolescent psychiatrics to practice in rural and underserved areas, will increase access to care for young Americans suffering from mental illness. I want to thank Congressman Courtney for his leadership on this issue.”

H.R. 2646 was passed yesterday afternoon by a vote of 53-0. It includes a section of the Courtney/Collins bill which would add the pediatric subspecialty of child psychiatry to the National Health Service Cops (NHSC). The NHSC was established in 1972 under DHS in order to provide student loan repayments for physicians who agree to work in underserved fields and high need geographic areas.

According to the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatrists, in Connecticut there are only 237 practicing child and adolescent psychiatrists across the entire state to serve over 774,876 children between the ages of 0-17 years old. The average age of these doctors is 52 years old, which means that many of them will be heading towards retirement in a little over 10 years. This fact alone makes the need to build the pediatric psychiatrist workforce pipeline a vital goal now, so that children in the state are not even more underserved in the future.