State of the State, Children’s Mental Health and more

January 10, 2024

Yesterday, Governor Hochul focused a significant portion of her SOS address on the issue of children and youth wellness and mental health.  Below please find some of the highlights that were either mentioned in her speech, included in the SOS Book, or included in the approved CMS 1115 Waiver document.  This is an impressive list of potential proposals!  The job now is to ensure they are included in the executive budget proposal, one-house bills, and ultimately enacted into law.

  • Add providers: continue incentives for school based mental health clinics (every school that wants one); revise the designation process for OMH’s Children and Family Treatment and Support Services to make it easier for more providers to apply; expand the New York State Children’s Asthma Initiative to train the health care workforce in delivering multidisciplinary care across multiple settings and better help children manage asthma. 
  • Add capacity:  the Department of Health and the Department of Financial Services will update behavioral health provider network adequacy standards;  authorize out-of- network services at in-network rates when timely behavioral and substance use appointments are not available for in-network coverage, add 200 more inpatient psychiatric beds, including 15 state operated beds for children with complex needs.
  • Loan Forgiveness Set Aside In both the State of the State and the press announcements relating to the 1115 Waiver approval, the need to expand the number of qualified practitioners in the children’s mental health field was a priority:
  •  “… expand the Community Mental Health Loan Repayment Program, with slots specifically for clinicians who work in child-serving agencies and treat children and families, including both OMH and the Office of Children and Family Services (OCFS) licensed settings.”
  • Submit a waiver request to the federal government to provide continuous Medicaid and Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) coverage to any eligible child between the ages of 0 and 6 years old.
  • Provide grant-funding to community-based organizations that are making investments in improving the quality of life for children with special needs

Additional proposals impacting New York’s children and youth:  
Submit a request to the federal government to provide continuous Medicaid and Children’s Health Insurance Program coverage for any eligible child up to 6 years old to ensure that no child in need misses out on critical health care services due to a lapse in health insurance coverage. 

Provide start-up funding and enhanced reimbursement to support the development of school-based mental health clinics, 
Increase funding for Teen Mental Health First Aid training programs. 
Establish new youth Assertive Community Treatment (ACT) teams statewide. 
Expand access to the Partial Hospitalization model and Children’s Day Treatment programs in schools. 
Expand training and specialty services within Children’s Community Residences. 
Convene a Youth Mental Health Advisory Board to ensure that youth-informed best practices continue to be incorporated in developing behavioral health programs and policies. 

And, from the 1115 Waiver: “Psychiatrists, with a priority on child/adolescent psychiatrists – Up to $300,000, per provider, in loan forgiveness for those who make a 4-year full-time commitment to maintaining a personal practice panel, or working at an organization with a panel that includes at least 30 percent Medicaid and/or uninsured members.” 
Other proposals of interest to NYS Council members:

  • Strengthening mental health parity enforcement and fines
  • Promulgating new network adequacy regulations for Medicaid and commercial insurers to set standards for behavioral health access, including limits on appointment wait times
  • Introducing legislation to require commercial plans to reimburse Article 31 and 32 clinics at the Medicaid rate, at minimum;
  • Increasing Medicaid reimbursement rates for mental health services at Article 28 clinics and private practices

More to come – stay tuned!