McNamara bill would make school psychological services eligible for Medicaid reimbursement


STATE HOUSE — Rep. Joseph M. McNamara (D-Dist. 19, Warwick, Cranston) has introduced legislation that would make school social and psychological services eligible for Medicaid.

The bill (2021-H 5067) would direct that services provided by school social workers and certified school psychologists would be included as health care related services eligible for federal Medicaid reimbursement.

“I submitted this legislation last year before the pandemic shut everything down,” said Representative McNamara, who chairs the House Education Committee. “I think it’s even more relevant now since the pandemic has put tremendous pressure on families — particularly children — coupled with the fact that our state budget is going to be under some sever constraints. Any help our communities can get in ensuring the presence of these mental health professionals and the essential services they provide would be a tremendous benefit to the families of Rhode Island.”

An estimated 13.7 million children have been diagnosed with anxiety, depression or behavioral health disorders. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, behavioral health disorders can prevent children from developing coping and resiliency skills — abilities they need to help them learn, behave or handle their emotions. These skills are essential to healthy social development and help ensure children have a positive quality of life now and into adulthood. 

Studies have shown children spend approximately 49 percent of their days in a school setting and are six times more likely to get evidence-based treatment when offered in schools than in other community settings. By linking programs and supports that foster a comprehensive school mental health system, states can not only reduce the number of children experiencing anxiety, depression and behavioral health disorders, but also save a considerable amount in economic costs.

The legislation, which is cosponsored by Representatives Julie Casimiro (D-Dist. 31, North Kingstown, Exeter) and Thomas E. Noret (D-Dist. 25, Coventry, West Warwick), has been referred to the House Committee on Education.




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