Letter: Extend Mental Health Waivers to Children

Testimony & Public Comments

May 4, 2020

The Campaign for Healthy Minds, Healthy Kids applauds Governor Cuomo for his recent announcement that insurance companies must waive copays and fees for mental health services and substance use disorder/addiction services for all essential health workers. This proposal rightfully recognizes the enormous emotional toll this pandemic is having on essential workers, who continue to put their lives at risk every day. The Healthy Minds, Healthy Kids Campaign urges the Governor to extend this order to the children of essential workers.

This pandemic is having a devastating impact on the mental health and wellbeing of children.

Extensive research on adverse childhood experiences tells us that the kinds of trauma caused by COVID-19 – including economic and housing insecurity, heightened risk of child welfare involvement, disruptions in mental health care, and loss of loved ones – have long-lasting repercussions across the health and wellbeing of children as they become adults. A recent study on the impact of COVID-19 on children in China found that about one in five – or 20% – of children

i reported symptoms of depression and anxiety after their schools had been closed for a month .

These rates are much higher than those experienced before this pandemic.

Particularly for the children of essential workers, this pandemic is enacting a terrible toll on them as they grapple with the stress of family members facing a heightened risk of contracting COVID-19, and the profound impact of losing a family member to this virus. Recent data from the CDC found that at least 9,282 healthcare workers in the US have contracted the novel coronavirus, though this figure is likely an underestimate. More than 70% of these are women, many of whom are undoubtedly raising children with partners or alone.

The losses children experience will be on top of the serious feelings of fear, abandonment, and separation anxiety children of essential workers undergo. Providing children with behavioral health supports is the key for reducing long-term poor mental health, as well as reducing the risk of school failure and poor family and personal relationships in the future. The Governor has recognized that what we do today directly impacts what happens tomorrow. We cannot afford to ignore the immediate needs facing the State’s most vulnerable children or we will see the negative health and social outcomes multiplied in the coming months and years. The Healthy Minds, Healthy Kids Campaign therefore strongly urges the Governor to extend the waiver of out-of-pocket costs for behavioral health services to the children of essential health workers. We stand ready to support the Governor in strengthening supports for the most at-risk children and families in our state. Thank you for your time and consideration.

The Healthy Minds, Healthy Kids Campaign is a statewide coalition of behavioral health providers, advocates, and New York families, joining together to create the public and political will necessary to ensure that all children and adolescents in New York receive the high-quality behavioral health services they need.

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