U.S. Sen. Tina Smith, U.S. Rep. Dean Phillips Introduce Legislation to Support Family Mental Health Services

WASHINGTON, D.C. [05/02/19]—U.S. Senator Tina Smith (D-Minn.) and U.S. Representative Dean Phillips (D-Minn.) have teamed up to introduce companion bills that would update landmark legislation to prioritize making sure the child welfare system supports and connects families to needed mental health services.

The Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA) was enacted 45 years ago and governs important child protection programs and services to prevent, assess, and identify child abuse and neglect—and it is the only federal program exclusively dedicated to these aims. Sen. Smith and Rep. Phillips’s bill—the Supporting Family Mental Health in CAPTA Act—would update CAPTA to improve the delivery of mental health services for children and families, improve access to important developmental screenings and early intervention services, and support research on effective practices to prevent child abuse and neglect. CAPTA is due to be reauthorized this year.

You can access text of the bill here and a summary of the legislation here.

“We know that if we don’t address the trauma that some children and families go through, the cycle continues through adulthood and onto future generations. Our bill signals that we see these families, and we want to help get them the mental health services they need,” said Sen. Smith, a member of the Senate Health Committee. “And because we know that it’s essential to take steps early to help children and families in Minnesota and across the country, our bill makes this a priority and works to ensure we’re supporting very young children and new moms in addressing their mental health needs.”

“Families in the child welfare system need mental health services, and those needs are not currently being met,” said Rep. Phillips. “We need to do all we can to improve mental health services for children and families at risk. This bill would help us do just that, and strengthen communities in Minnesota and across the country.”

The Supporting Family Mental Health in CAPTA Act would:

  • Improve the implementation of important developmental screenings for young at-risk children through training, greater cross-agency coordination, and data reporting;
  • Improve delivery of mental health services for children and families in order to strengthen and support families, including through:
    • maternal depression screening and treatment, treatment for families with complex needs, and trauma-focused mental health models
    • support for infant and early childhood mental health evaluations and treatment,
    • programs and services that address social determinants of health, or intimate partner violence;
  • Research and disseminate best practices for addressing, the physical, behavioral, mental health, and developmental needs of victims of child abuse or neglect; and
  • Research effective practices to leverage community-based resources to prevent child abuse and neglect that include addressing: physical, behavioral, and mental health, substance use disorders, housing, parent supports, financial assistance, early childhood development and learning, and education services to help strengthen families.
  • Research addressing geographic, racial, and cultural equity and disparities in the child welfare system, including a focus on access to culturally appropriate family strengthening programs and activities that prevent child abuse and neglect

Sen. Smith and Rep. Phillips’s bill is supported by the American Psychological Association (APA), American Association for Psychoanalysis in Clinical Social Work, Children’s Home Society of America, American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, Clinical Social Work Association, Association for Ambulatory Behavioral Healthcare, Children and Adults with Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, Psychotherapy Action Network, American Counseling Association, and Minnesota Communities Caring for Children.

You can access text of the bill here and a summary of the legislation here.