Using Medicaid to Provide Children’s Mental Health Services

In the Fall of 2013, the McSilver Institute partnered with the Congressional Research Institute for Social Work and Policy (CRISP) and Social Justice Solutions to co-sponsor a symposium in Washington, DC, on the impact of federal policies and programs on children’s mental health services.  This is Part 2 of a four-part series.  Click here to see Part 1!

Charles E. Lewis, Ph.D., President of CRISP, introduced Medicaid as a means to expand children’s mental health services through the Early Periodic Screening, Diagnosis, and Treatment program (EPSDT). A robust discussion, moderated by McSilver Institute Director, Mary McKay, Ph.D., followed with Heather McCabe, Ph.D., from the D.C. Department of Healthcare Finance, expanding on the details of EPSDT, and Colleen Sonosky, J.D., Associate Director of the D.C. Division of Children’s Health Services, focusing on the impact of healthcare reform on children’s coverage and service delivery. Marie Morilus-Black, M.S.W., Director of Children and Youth Services of the D.C. Department of Behavioral Health, discussed Medicaid funded evidence based practices. Lisa A. Castagnola, M.S.W., shared her experience as a clinician and highlighted that without Medicaid high-needs patients would not receive the treatment they need.  


Resources & More Information

The full program, list of speakers, and speaker bios are available on the CRISP website. 

Mental Health in Schools Act was introduced by Congresswoman Grace Napolitano. The proposal calls for increased mental health treatment for youth and addresses the importance of early detection and treatment, which in turn will help keep healthcare costs low in the long run. This act would bring mental health professionals into schools for on-site care by providing grant funding that would be distributed by SAMHSA as an extension of their Safe Students, Healthy Schools program.

Student Support Act is sponsored by Congresswoman Barbara Lee and enables the Secretary of Education to issue grants of at least $1 million to schools around the country to hire on-site mental health providers. The requirements include one school counselor for every 250 students, one school psychologist for every 1,000 students, and one school social worker for every 250 students.

The Early and Periodic Screening, Diagnosis, and Treatment program (EPSDT) is a Medicaid program that is mandatory for all states, but voluntary for participants. EPSDT provides periodic screens for behavioral health issues in conjunction with anticipatory guidance for parents and caregivers. While participation is voluntary, treatment is mandatory for any participant who has been identified with any behavioral health risk factor. The goal of the program is to integrate primary health care with behavioral and developmental care and increase treatment access for low-income families.

The National Council for Behavioral Health unifies community mental health and substance use treatment organizations in the United States. The council is committed to improving access and the delivery of comprehensive, high-quality mental health care. The Council has resources and activities ranging from policy action and development to helping providers with program implementation and best practices.

The Center for School Mental Health (CSMH) offers a number of resources and up to date information about implementing strong school mental health services, as well as news related to school mental health. CSMH’s briefs serve as a strong resource for staying up to date on school-focused mental health services. 

The National Alliance of Mental Illness’ (NAMI) Children and Adolescent Action Center provides information and links to outside organizations focused on special education and school based mental health. NAMI also provides great resources related to building Individualized Education Programs (IEP) including tips for parents and educators for building and understanding an IEP.

The Institute of Medicine has highlighted the advancements and opportunities in mental health preventative care including the impact of services, financial advantages, and evaluation of value. One report in particular, Preventing Mental, Emotional, and Behavioral Disorders Among Young People: Progress and Possibilities, was reference throughout the symposium.

Over the next two weeks, we will post parts 3 and 4, stay tuned!


Courtesy of McSilver Institute of Poverty Policy and Research who has kindly given SJS permission to syndicate this piece.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in the Policy News Briefs are not necessarily the views of the McSilver Institute for Poverty Policy and Research or NYU’s Silver School of Social Work. If you have comments or suggestions about this service, contact us at

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