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Courtney Announces Mental Health Bill Passes The House Containing A Portion Of His Bill To Support Child Psychiatrists

July 7, 2016
Press Release
The 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 of Representatives passed the Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act, H.R. 2646 by a nearly unanimous margin. The bill includes a section of the bipartisan Ensuring Children's Access to Specialty Care Act of 2015, 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 by the House yesterday which includes a section of my bill to add child and adolescent physiatrists to the National Health Service Crops,” said Courtney. “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. With nearly 1 out of every 5 young American’s experiencing some type of mental health issue during adolescence, 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.”

“Passing this mental health legislation was a vital step towards addressing the mental health crisis plaguing our country,” said Congressman Collins. “I am very proud to have helped secure provisions that will incentivize child and adolescent psychiatrics to practice in rural and underserved areas. These provisions will increase access to care for the millions of young Americans suffering from mental illness. I want to thank Congressman Courtney for his leadership on this issue.”

 Gregory K. Fritz, MD, President of the American Association of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (AACAP), said: “This bill will go a long way in helping to provide access to care for millions of children who are suffering from mental illness and provide much-needed assistance to address the dire workforce shortage of child and adolescent psychiatrists.  I am glad to see that the House of Representatives understands the importance of raising the profile of mental health and substance use disorders and the need to focus on early intervention. I hope that the Senate takes a hard look at this landmark legislation and acts swiftly to advance meaningful workforce shortage provisions and that child and adolescent psychiatrists (CAPs) and children are fully included in any mental health bill that the Senate may pass.”

H.R. 2646 was passed yesterday by the House of Representatives by a vote of 422-2. 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 HHS 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.