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Bill would provide Behavioural Health Services to MD Minors without a Diagnosis

A measure to provide Marylanders under the age of 18 with greater access to mental health care is being considered by the General Assembly. The Senate Finance Committee will hear evidence this afternoon on providing limited mental health care, with or without a formal diagnosis, to children who are eligible for Medicaid. SB 876 would make therapy, treatment planning, and preventative services available to children. During a House hearing on the companion measure last week, advocates said that it can be challenging for medical professionals to rapidly establish an accurate diagnosis in youngsters.

According to National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence advocate Ann Ciekot, treating a patient doesn’t revolve around the diagnosis.

Saying that receiving a diagnosis is the sole means of accessing services really works against patients receiving the necessary treatment and services. What’s needed is not the diagnosis. The system, the billing system, depends on the diagnosis in order to function,” she clarified.

Similar laws were passed in Colorado the previous year.

According to the bill, the Maryland Department of Health would have to submit an annual report to the General Assembly detailing the mental health services it provides as well as patient demographic data. According to surveys, 47,000 young people in Maryland—nearly 60% of those with serious depression—do not receive any mental health therapy. The law would go into effect at the start of the next year if it were enacted. Delegate Jamila Woods, a Democrat from Prince George’s County, presented the measure in the House and said it would increase access.

“House Bill 1040 expands eligibility rather than boosting benefits. It makes no mention of or discourages medical professionals from diagnosing a youngster when it is appropriate. Rather, it takes down an obstacle that makes it possible for early intervention programs and effective prevention to occur,” the speaker stated.

The current legislative session ends on April 8.

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