Call your Congressman/Senator!!!
Request Cosponsorship of the “Keeping Families Together Act”
Last week, Reps. Jim Ramstad (R-MN), Pete Stark (D- CA) and Patrick Kennedy (D-RI) introduced the Keeping Families Together Act. The legislation would help parents obtain necessary mental health treatment for their mentally ill children without being forced to relinquish custody. Senators Collins (R-ME) and Harkin (D-IA) introduced identical legislation in the Senate.
Each year, thousands of parents are forced to relinquish their custody rights to the state in order to obtain mental health care for their seriously ill children. Mental health treatment may be extremely expensive and private insurance tends to run out after a few months, leaving parents unable to afford the cost. Yet affected children often remain ineligible for Medicaid because their parents’ income and assets keep them from qualifying for assistance. With no other way to get their kids treatment, parents are forced to choose between custody or care.
The Keeping Families Together Act would keep children with their families through three main components:
- Grants to states to build new state-level infrastructure to more efficiently serve these children while keeping them in their families;
- Establishment of a federal interagency task force to examine mental health issues in the child welfare and juvenile justice systems; and
- Inclusion of eligibility of children and adolescents in residential treatment facilities for Medicaid home or community-based services waivers.
The Keeping Families Together Act provides $100 million in new family support grants to states that end the practice of child custody relinquishment. States could use these grants to improve access to mental health and family support services that keep families together; create statewide care coordination programs; or deliver mental health care and family support services to these families.
This legislation is in response to an April 2003 U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) report requested by the three legislators. The GAO found that 12,700 children from 19 states were placed into the juvenile justice system to receive mental health treatment in 2001. The report recognized that the national problem is much larger since this survey was limited. Click here for the report
AACAP Member Action: Please call your Congressman/Senator and ask them to cosponsor this important legislation! Call 1-202-224-3121 to reach the Capitol Switchboard, and ask for your Representative or Senator’s office. When connected to the office, ask for the Health Legislative Assistant. If you leave a voicemail message, include your name and phone number.
Message: “I am a child and adolescent psychiatrist from your district/state and am calling to ask that Representative/Senator __________ cosponsor The Keeping Families Together Act (H.R.687/S.382). This legislation will ensure that parents do not need to choose between getting the appropriate health care services for their child and keeping custody of the child. I appreciate his/her support to keep families intact as children receive the mental health treatment they need.
Please contact the AACAP Dept. of Government Affairs at 800.333. 7636, x. 108, or e-mail email@example.com, with questions and to let us know when you have contacted your Representative or Senator. Thank you for your action!
Department of Government Affairs
Kristin K. Ptakowski, Director
Elizabeth Rorick, Assistant Director
Ramone Gardenhire, Assistant Director for State Advocacy
Abby Schopick, Legislative Assistant