Representatives DeSaulnier, Matsui, and Kennedy Announce Legislation to Improve Mental Health Supports for Young Children and Families

January 10, 2020
Press Release

Washington, DC – Today, Representatives Mark DeSaulnier (CA-11), Doris Matsui (CA-06), and Joe Kennedy III (MA-04) announced the introduction of the Early Childhood Mental Health Support Act (H.R. 5569), a bill to increase the mental health services provided to young children in Head Start and early childhood education centers. 

“Like millions of families across the country, I have seen the benefits of good behavioral health services and the consequences when they aren’t available. The evidence is clear: the sooner children receive support, the more they thrive. Bringing these interventions into schools will help children, support teachers, and go a long way in the fight to destigmatize mental and behavioral health care,” said Congressman DeSaulnier. 

“We all know that children’s earliest years have lasting effects on their lifelong mental health and wellness. To ensure every child has the full opportunity to succeed in school and life, we need to support and strengthen the Head Start program’s ability to pool resources, empower communities, and share best practices on children’s mental health care,” said Congresswoman Matsui. “Every Head Start location in the country should come equipped with evidence-based data to detect, provide resources, and intervene, if necessary, for the good of the child. The Early Childhood Mental Health Support Act does just that and provides Head Start programs with the tools to execute that vision. I am proud to join Rep. DeSaulnier in introducing this legislation, and I look forward to working with him to usher it through Congress.”

“Ensuring children have access to early intervention behavioral health care can help them heal from any existing trauma or challenge at a young age. But beyond early access to critical care, early intervention breaks down the stigma that too often denies patients treatment later in life and at the moments they need it most. By bringing together experts in early childhood education and mental health care, this bill will invest in evidence based programs that will help the local leaders standing on the frontlines of this crisis. With the support of national and local advocates, Congressman DeSaulnier and I will fight to pass this bill and bring resources to the communities that need them most,” said Congressman Kennedy. 

“NAMI thanks Congressman DeSaulnier for bringing this legislation forward. We support this bill because early intervention is critical to help realize better outcomes for children at risk of developing mental health conditions. We need evidence-based programs in school settings such as Head Start programs, and this legislation puts us on that path,” said Angela Kimball, Acting CEO of the National Alliance on Mental Illness. 

“Early childhood is a critical period in development which sets the stage for long-term mental health. APA applauds Rep. DeSaulnier’s leadership in promoting children’s healthy social-emotional development by creating opportunities for Head Start centers to expand evidence-based interventions for parents and children,” said Arthur C. Evans Jr., Ph.D., CEO of the American Psychological Association. 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that one in five children have a diagnosable mental disorder. Sadly, many of these children go without a diagnosis and the services they need, resulting in children having trouble learning in school, stunting their ability to build lasting relationships with others, and making them more likely to have chronic health problems including more serious mental illnesses later in life. 

H.R. 5569 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.

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. 4353), which will give grants for primary care providers to have mental health clinicians on site.