Pass the Strengthen Kids’ Mental Health Now Act

Prevention, Early Intervention, & Youth
Parity, Coverage, & Equitable Access
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Congress should pass legislation like the Strengthen Kids’ Mental Health Now Act to increase community-based provider rates and expand the capacity and availability of pediatric mental health services.


Children’s mental health is a critical issue that affects millions of families in the United States. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, more than 14 million children and adolescents in the United States have a diagnosable mental health condition.[1] Using data from the 2016 National Survey on Children’s Health, researchers at the University of Michigan also found that only half of children with mental health conditions were receiving treatment.[2] Moreover, the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated the mental health crisis among children, with increased rates of anxiety, depression, and substance use disorders.[3] Many communities lack enough options for children’s mental health treatment, and often children do not receive the care they need, which can lead to more severe mental health problems. Consequently, children’s hospitals are seeing more children in crisis who are “boarding,” or waiting in hospitals (often emergency departments) for suitable care placements to open up.[4]

The Strengthen Kids’ Mental Health Now Act would improve access and quality of mental health care for children and adolescents by increasing community-based provider rates for pediatric mental health services. The bill would also improve state implementation of Early and Periodic Screening, Diagnostic, and Treatment (EPSDT), a Medicaid coverage requirement that provides comprehensive and preventive health care services for children under age 21, to improve accessibility to pediatric mental health and substance use services that EPSDT guarantees, but often fails to deliver.[5]

The legislation also identifies the regulatory and legal hurdles that prevent providers from increasing their ability to provide pediatric mental health services and encourages existing flexibilities states can use to broaden mental health services, while creating a new Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) grant program to improve community-based pediatric mental health services and help communities implement or develop new programs and policies that suit the mental health needs of children and adolescents. Additionally, the bill aims to establish a new HRSA workforce grant program that focuses on strengthening the pediatric mental health workforce, through more training for the current workforce and focused investment in the recruitment, retention, and diversity of future pediatric mental health professionals. Finally, the bill proposes to create a HRSA program that aims to enhance vital pediatric mental health infrastructure and expand our national ability to deliver suitable care for children with more intensive treatment needs.[5]


1. American Academy of Pediatrics. Mental Health Initiatives. Last Accessed August 11, 2023.

2. Mostafavi, Beata. “Half of U.S. Children with Mental Health Disorders Are Not Treated.” Michigan Medicine. Last Updated February 18, 2019.

3. Williams, Elizabeth, and Patrick Drake. “Headed Back to School: A Look at the Ongoing Effects of COVID-19 on Children’s Health and Well-Being.” Kaiser Family Foundation. Last Updated August 5, 2022.

4. Children’s Hospital Association. Strengthen Kids' Mental Health Now Bill Would Invest in Mental Health. Last Accessed August 11, 2023.5. Strengthening Kids’ Mental Health Now Act. H.R. 7236 (Eshoo-Fitzpatrick), 117th Congress (2021-2022). Last Accessed August 11, 2023.

5. Strengthening Kids’ Mental Health Now Act. H.R. 7236 (Eshoo-Fitzpatrick), 117th Congress (2021-2022). Last Accessed August 11, 2023.