DC AAP Treasurer, Helene Felman, MD, FAAP and Immediate Past President, Lee Savio Beers, MD, FAAP testified in support of the Behavioral Health System of Care Act of 2014 at the October 23rd DC Council Committee on Health public hearing.

Helene’s testimony starts at approx. 00:33:00. Lee’s testimony starts at approx. 1:04:00.

Across the country and in the District, there is a shortage of mental health professionals, which results in long wait times and too many children not getting mental health care until they are in a crisis. Yet, there are many basic mental health issues that pediatric providers can effectively identify and address in primary care settings – with the right support.

The Behavioral Health System of Care Act of 2014 expands mental health access for children through the District’s extensive pediatric primary care network. It increases pediatricians’ ability to identify and manage basic mental health issues among their patients. It also ensures that children who need to see mental health specialists are quickly and appropriately linked to the proper clinicians and services.

To achieve this, the bill requires the DC Department of Behavioral Health (DBH) to establish a Behavioral Health Access Project to provide timely mental health consultations to pediatric primary care providers. The legislation allows DBH to contract with a non-profit organization to carry out the functions of the Project. The Behavioral Health Access Project created by this legislation will:

  • Assemble a multidisciplinary consultative team consisting of professionals from various fields of mental health to engage with and support pediatricians in diagnosing and treating patients with mild mental health needs;
  • Provide consultative and referral services to youth under 22 who exhibit a possible mental health or substance use disorder;
  • Provide face-to-face consultations with a patient when a telephone consultation with a physician is not sufficient; and
  • Provide care coordinator and facilitated referral services for youth requiring behavioral health treatment.