Washington, DC – Today, Congressman Mark DeSaulnier (CA-11), along with his colleagues Congresswoman Doris Matsui (CA-06) and Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley (MA-07) announced the introduction of the Early Childhood Mental Health Support Act (H.R. 6509), a bill to bolster the mental health services provided to young children in Head Start and early childhood education centers.
“The importance of strong behavioral health support from an early age cannot be overstated,” said Congressman DeSaulnier. “Like many families across the country, I have seen firsthand that the sooner children receive support, the better their outcomes. I am proud to work with Reps. Matsui and Pressley in ensuring these services are available at Head Start and other early education facilities, which will have a positive, lasting impact on the health and wellbeing of millions of children and families while helping to support teachers.”
“Head Start programs have proven benefits—from academic achievement to improved social skills—that provide children with a strong foundation to grow and thrive in their earliest years,” said Congresswoman Matsui. “Mental health is an important part of that foundation, and every Head Start location in the country should have access to the evidence-based tools and resources they need to best serve the behavioral health needs of children under five. I am proud to again join Congressman DeSaulnier in reintroducing the Early Childhood Mental Health Support Act, legislation that supports Head Start programs in carrying out this vision and expands access to mental and behavioral health care for young children.”
“From poverty to housing, food, and health care insecurity, low-income children in my district are more vulnerable to trauma-inducing experiences that, when left unaddressed, can lead to health problems, relationship challenges, and mental health and substance use disorders,” said Congresswoman Pressley. “The Early Childhood Mental Health Support Act would provide critical resources to prevent and address childhood trauma for low-income children and families, using best practices and culturally-competent solutions. As we recover from this pandemic and the unprecedented emotional burden on young people, this bill would provide necessary early intervention to help children heal and thrive. I am proud to join Rep. DeSaulnier in introducing this legislation and look forward to working with him to fight to pass this bill.”
“Early intervention is one of our best tools to help realize better outcomes for children at risk of developing mental health conditions. Increasing the availability of evidence-based interventions in school settings like Head Start programs is critical to helping children and families. NAMI is grateful to Congressman DeSaulnier for his leadership in bringing the Early Childhood Mental Health Support Act forward to increase the mental health services available to our nation’s children,” said Hannah Wesolowski, Chief Advocacy Officer of the National Alliance on Mental Illness.
“Early childhood is a critical period in development that sets the stage for long-term mental health. APA applauds Rep. DeSaulnier’s leadership in promoting children’s healthy social and emotional development by creating opportunities for Head Start centers to expand evidence-based interventions for parents and children through best practices, enhanced curricula and increased training,” said Arthur C. Evans Jr., Ph.D., CEO of the American Psychological Association.
“These past two years have laid bare the immediate need for expanded evidence-based mental health supports for our Commonwealth’s most vulnerable young children and families. Head Start and Early Head Start programs deserve access to all layers of interventions, resources, and funding to comprehensively wrap around children at this critical time,” said Michelle Haimowitz, Executive Director of Massachusetts Head Start.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that one in five children have a diagnosable mental disorder. Unfortunately, many of these children never receive a diagnosis and do not receive the behavioral health services they need. This lack of access to care can have serious consequences for children, contributing to learning challenges, difficulty forming meaningful relationships, and an increased likelihood of developing more serious mental illnesses later in life.
H.R. 6509 would require the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to work with area experts to compile and make public evidence-based mental health, social-emotional, and behavioral health interventions for young children. The bill also provides grants to Head Start programs to implement these interventions in an effort to ensure every child has access to comprehensive health care.
Congressman DeSaulnier’s bill is supported by: National Alliance on Mental Illness, American Psychological Association, Massachusetts Head Start, Mental Health America, Trust for America’s Health, Zero to Three, American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, First Five Years Fund, First Focus Campaign for Children, and Association of Maternal and Child Health Programs.
Congressman DeSaulnier is a member of the Congressional Mental Health Caucus and has been an advocate for improving access to mental health resources throughout his career in public service. He also recently introduced the Suicide Prevention Assistance Act (H.R. 2648), which would provide grants for primary care providers to have mental health clinicians on site.