Collins cosponsors bipartisan bill supporting children’s mental health care

U.S. Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) recently introduced a bipartisan bill that aims to support children’s access to mental health care by reauthorizing the federal Infant and Early Childhood Mental Health (IECMH) Grant Program.

“The IECMH program has trained thousands of mental health workers and provided screenings and referrals for thousands of children,” Sen. Collins said on Dec. 21. “Our bipartisan bill would strengthen this program to reach even more families.”

Sen. Collins on Dec. 15 signed on as the lead original cosponsor of the Investing in Infant and Early Childhood Mental Health Act, S. 5266, which is sponsored by U.S. Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA) to reauthorize the IECMH Grant Program at $50 million through fiscal year 2027 — a $30 million increase in funding from the program’s original authorization of $20 million, according to a bill summary provided by the lawmakers.

Specifically, the IECMH Grant Program provides grants to human service agencies or nonprofits to develop, maintain, or enhance early intervention mental health programs and treatments for children from birth up to 12 years of age who have experienced trauma or are at high risk for mental health challenges, the summary says. 

“Youth experiencing difficulties with mental health often face challenges adjusting to school and are at an increased risk for drug use and other dangerous behaviors. The pandemic and its consequences, such as social isolation, only exacerbated this issue,” said Sen. Collins. “Investing in mental health services beginning at an early age can help young people improve their overall well-being and provide them with a firm foundation to succeed in life.”

If enacted, S. 5266 also would authorize the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, which oversees the grant program, to fund a technical assistance center that would provide training and resources to carry out the work of the IECMH Grant Program, according to the summary.

“I’ve continuously said that the mental health impacts of COVID will be with us long after the public health emergency is over,” said Sen. Kaine. “This bill is going to help ensure children have access to mental health resources early in life so that we can try to prevent more severe mental health challenges from developing as they get older.”

S. 5266 has been referred for consideration to the U.S. Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee.