On October 29th, McSilver along with the Congressional Research Institute for Social Work and Policy, and Social Justice Solutions, sponsored a Children’s Mental Health Symposium focusing on federal policies impacting children’s mental health services. The all-day conference, taking place in the Cannon House Office Building in Washington, DC, was recorded and live-streamed with over a hundred people tuning in from home or work.
The goal of the conference was to increase public awareness of children’s mental health issues and to inform congressional offices and staff about recent developments in the delivery of mental health services to children. Panelists were comprised of leading policy makers and experts from across the country. Starting the day with a poignant personal story, keynote speaker Paolo del Vecchio, Director of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA)’s Center for Mental Health Services spoke about his journey starting as a consumer to his current leadership role at SAMHSA.
Panels discussed the current policies regarding the use of Medicaid to provide services to children and youth with an eye to Medicaid expansionunder the Affordable Care Act (ACA); efforts to provide services to children in schools and federal policies that impact these efforts; and finally on current efforts to educate the public about the importance of early detection and treatment for children with mental health problems and resources the federal government provides to assist in these efforts.
Special guest speakers included Representative Barbara Lee (CA-13), Chair, Congressional Social Work Caucus and Representative Grace Napolitano (CA-32), Co-Chair, Congressional Mental Health Caucus. Both Congresswomen stressed the importance of children’s mental health services and underscored the important work of human service providers. Lee, a social worker, has had a mission to raise the awareness about the ongoing crisis of poverty and in her remarks spoke about the cuts in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), also known as food stamps, that the nation was about to face in the upcoming days.
“This is such important work and for McSilver to be a part of it, it’s very exciting. Federal policies shape our lives, but if we are not cognizant of the deep impacts these policies have on the most vulnerable populations we serve, then we cannot say we’ve worked hard enough to serve them well,” said Dr. Mary McKay, Director of the McSilver Institute.