Monday, April 4, 2011

Catania to introduce mental health and youth violence legislation April 5

At-large CM David Catania will introduce "South Capitol Street Tragedy Memorial Act of 2011" at the April 5 legislative meeting.   The act is the result of the consistent advocacy of Nardyne Jefferies, mother of one of the 2010 tragedy, and the aggressive work of the CM and the staff of the Committee on Health.

The legislation, media coverage of the introduction and other related materials are online at www.southcapitolact.com.   The implementation timeline is here (Word, .doc).

As described in this earlier post, the legislation addresses the challenges of mental health and youth violence.   In a March 31 News Talk with Bruce DePuyt appearance, Catania said,

What we've attempted to undertake is the most comprehensive behavioral health program in the nation. We are creating something out of whole cloth that we believe, that we believe, at long last will provide kids the safety net they deserve.

Since the March 30 press conference announcing the legislation, some stakeholders have questioned provisions, assumptions and approaches.   Catania is clear that the legislation as introduced is not perfect.   But it's a place to start if the city is to address these longstanding problems.   Between now and the final vote, some issues to be considered are:

  • Shifting fund types, maximizing revenue:   Right now, the mental health and early intervention pilots in DC Public Schools (DC START, to name one) are funded with local dollars.   Taking the programs to scale would mean that the city could and should use Medicaid.   At scale, the investment in a billing and documentation infrastructure would be worthwhile.   It's been said that the city could fund more schools with the same amount of money by billing Medicaid.
  • Assessing the needs of children and youth:   Inherent in this assessment is the related evaluation of the current service array and the provider community's capacity to meet the needs of young people.   Also inherent is the proximity of providers to where children and youth live and go to school.
  • Getting a grip on preventing truancy:   All I can say is that what we are doing now is not working for anyone, especially young people.

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