'Huge' Gaps In Mental Health Care For Children, Experts Warn
NBCNEWS.COM - The U.S. mental health system has huge gaps that prevent many
children with psychological problems from receiving effective treatment
that could prevent tragic consequences later in life, experts told U.S.
lawmakers on Thursday.
Just over a month after the shooting rampage in Newtown, Connecticut,
mental health experts said psychological disorders usually emerge
before people enter high school but that only one-quarter of children
with problems see trained professionals and often the care is not
"We see the results of insufficient mental health care in school
failure and suicide. How do we do better?" Michael Hogan, head of the
President's New Freedom Commission on Mental Health, said in written
testimony to the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee.
"While the gaps in children's mental health care are huge, there is
also reason for hope," he added. "In part, this is because we know more
about what works, and what doesn't."
Hogan, a former New York mental health commissioner, was scheduled to
appear with two other experts Thursday at the Senate committee's first
hearing on mental health issues since the presidency of Republican
George W. Bush, who set up the commission Hogan now chairs.
The hearing was scheduled in response to the shootings at Newtown's
Sandy Hook Elementary School where Adam Lanza, a young man described as
having mental issues, gunned down 26 people including 20 young children
with an AR-15-type assault rifle on Dec. 14.
The tragedy and other mass shootings in recent years have ignited a
debate about gun control and mental health, including a push by
President Barack Obama for stronger gun controls and better mental
health training for schools and communities.
Robert Vero, chief executive of a network of Tennessee clinics called
Cornerstone, said mental health professionals who work with children
also lack access to parents and other relatives whose problems may
contribute to a child's troubles, sometimes due to inadequate insurance
"We need to be able to teach parenting skills if we want the child's
behavior to change," said Vero. "We need to be able to address the
parent's depression or addiction."
The experts credited Obama's healthcare reform law, the Patient
Protection and Affordable Care Act, with making a step forward by
requiring insurers including Medicaid to provide coverage for mental
But they said the American social safety net still fails to provide
adequate access for the poor and elderly, noting that state mental
health funding declined $4 billion from 2009 to 2012 as a result of
budget constraints posed by recession and the weak economic recovery.
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