By Jonathan Springston, Editor, Relias Media

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced last week the agency is setting aside $14.2 million from the American Rescue Plan to further expand mental healthcare access for young Americans.

The Health Resources and Services Administration will use these funds to invest in more projects through the Pediatric Mental Health Care Access (PMHCA) program, an initiative that came to life in 2018 thanks to the 21st Century Cures Act. The goal of PMHCA is to use telehealth services to make behavioral health services more widely available as part of pediatric primary care.

Children are struggling with a range of emotional and behavioral challenges arising from the COVID-19 pandemic, especially those in families with lower incomes or who face other obstacles to healthcare,” HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra said in a statement. “This program harnesses the power of technology to make mental and behavioral healthcare more accessible and equitable for our nation’s children, and links pediatric care providers to children and their families who need that specialized care.”

According to the CDC, 7.4% of children age 3-17 years have been diagnosed with a behavior problem, 7.1% have been diagnosed with anxiety, and 3.2% have been diagnosed with depression.

“Physicians, parents, and others who work with and care about young people welcome tangible support such as this to improve the mental health of children, adolescents, and families emerging from the COVID-19 pandemic,” Patrice A. Harris, MD, MA, immediate past president of the American Medical Association, said in a statement. “Achieving equitable access to mental and behavioral healthcare via telehealth is needed now, particularly where racial, ethnic, and geographic disparities in access to care are prevalent.”

For more on this and related subjects, be sure to read the latest issues of ED Management and Pediatric Emergency Medicine Reports