Massachusetts Legislature Passes Child Wellness Legislation

This bill aims to break down silos of service to better address the complex health and wellness needs specific to the Commonwealth’s 1.4 million children. The effort seeks to create a foundation for better access to services and more data to inform future policy, while supporting a holistic approach children’s wellbeing. 

“This bill removes barriers so children can better access behavioral health treatment,” said James T Welch (D-West Springfield). “Whether you’re a parent, an educator, or a community member, we all recognize that mental health, along with physical health, is vital for setting our kids up for the best possible futures. This bill is a great step in that direction.”

The legislation seeks to address child wellness in the following eight areas:

  1. Secures healthcare benefits for foster children until the age of 26, making it easier for this vulnerable population to access to MassHealth benefits they are entitled at minimal cost to the Commonwealth. It codifies the practice for Massachusetts in the event of change on the federal level to the Affordable Care Act.
  1. Requires insurance companies to maintain accurate and accessible provider directories for health plans. The provision directs companies to make the directories available without requiring users to create a new online account or profile. The directory must be updated frequently to ensure the information is correct. Insurance companies must take steps to make the directors user-friendly for individuals with disabilities and limited English proficiency. Establishes a task force to develop recommendations to ensure the accurate electronic posting of directories headed by the Commissioner of Insurance.
  1. Creates childhood behavioral health centers of excellence via a pilot program that designates three regional centers to act as clearinghouses to connect families, providers, and educators to services and training opportunities. Requires the Executive Office of Health and Human Services to report on progress and impact after one year of implementation.
  1. Requires the Heath Policy Commission to conduct analysis within the next year of children with medical complexity to analyze costs and population characteristics of this group in order to develop recommendations about how to serve this unique population.
  1. Establishes a task force to study pediatric behavioral health screening tools.
  1. Creates a special commission to examine the pediatric workforce to address pediatric provider availability and adequacy. The Commission would recommend strategies for increasing the pipeline of pediatric providers and expanding access to practicing providers.  
  1. Charges a 17-member special commission to review school-based health centers for the purpose of strengthening, improving, and considering ways to replicate best practices across the state.
  1. Create special commission chaired by the Child Advocate to review and make recommendations on mandated reporting to improve responses to child abuse and neglect.

The bill now goes to the governor.

 

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