House approves Brown’s ‘Youth Behavioral Health Protection Act’

Today the House of Representatives passed a bill sponsored by Sen. Sharon Brown that is aimed at better integrating mental and behavioral health services with pediatric primary-care services.

“You need prevention, but to get prevention you need access to care,” said Brown, R-Kennewick. “This bill is a result of community conversations around the disproportionate number of child suicides. I worked with Dr. Thatcher Felt from the American Academy of Pediatrics to identify ways to streamline access. One way to accomplish this is to have a mental-health professional embedded in a primary-care practice.”

The Youth Behavioral Health Protection Act, as the bill will be known once it becomes law, passed by a vote of 94-3 in the House. The bill, passed unanimously March 1 by the Senate, will require the state Health Care Authority to review payment codes available to health plans and providers related to behavioral health and adjust payment rules as needed to facilitate integration of behavioral health with primary care.

Under the bill, the HCA is also required to oversee the coordination of mental-health resources

and services for Medicaid-eligible children.

Brown described the bill as a way to streamline care and better identify the mental-health needs of children, who often go untreated for serious and even life-threatening behavioral conditions.

“Nearly one in five kids is affected by behavioral-health disorders; yet, eighty percent of patients do not receive the behavioral health care they deserve,” Brown explained. “This new law will help kids get the care they need by having integrated behavioral-health consultants provide necessary care at times of crisis.”

Changes made to the bill in the House must also be approved by the Senate before going to the Governor’s desk for his consideration.