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.