Covid’s Intensifying Impact on Kids’ Mental Health Prompts Experts to Create a Policy Guide for Parents, Policymakers

Report analyzes compliance with federal protections parents may not know about
OAKLAND, CA & ALEXANDRIA, VA –– Dec. 8, 2020 –– Parents are ending the year much the same way they started it: Worrying about their children’s mental health as they prepare for months of isolated learning. Adding to the list of resources already available to parents, Well Being Trust, Mental Health America, and California Children’s Trust today released Coverage of Services to Promote Children’s Mental Health, a guide to help parents demand access to coverage for the mental health services their children need.
“California Children’s Trust is proud to partner with Well Being Trust and Mental Health America to highlight unfulfilled promises at the national level,” said Alex Briscoe, Principal of California Children’s Trust. “At our local level, more than half of all California children should be getting mental health services through the unique federal entitlements contained in this report – and far too few are receiving them at a time when they’ve never needed them more.”
Symptoms of depression and anxiety among the general population hit an all-time high this fall. But throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, youth between the ages of 11 to 17 have been more likely than any other age group to report moderate to severe symptoms of anxiety and depression.
“The good news is depression, anxiety and other mental health issues children are experiencing at higher rates this year can be successfully identified, treated, and in many instances, anticipated and even prevented,” said Leslie Walker Harding, Chair of the University of Washington’s Department of Pediatrics and Chief Academic Officer of Seattle Children’s Hospital. “Parents need to know this, and they should be able to equitably access the resources and mental health services that can help them keep their children safe, healthy and thriving during this challenging time.”
In September 2020, more than half of 11- to 17-year-olds reported having thoughts of suicide or self-harm more than half or nearly every day of the previous two weeks.
“Addressing the mental health needs of children in our country isn’t just a moral imperative – in some cases it’s the law,” said Nathaniel Counts, J.D., Mental Health America’s Senior Vice President of Behavioral Health Innovation. “We need to make sure children and families get access to the services they’re already entitled to. This is especially the case for families in Black, Indigenous, and People of Color communities that have often faced systemic denials of access to quality care.”
The Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act, Medicaid, and the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act all have policies that ensure parents can have their children screened and treated for whatever mental and behavioral health concerns their child may be experiencing right now. The problem, as the Coverage of Services to Promote Children’s Mental Health report explains, is that many of these protections are currently being overlooked or violated.
The Coverage of Services to Promote Children’s Mental Health report shares exactly what mental health protections parents and their children are entitled to under existing law. In addition to providing parents with the insights needed to, if necessary, take legal action – parents are encouraged to contact their local MHA affiliate or their local protection & advocacy organization with questions or concerns – the report also contains the steps that states, health insurers, and the new administration must take to improve children’s mental well-being.
“The new administration will likely have the opportunity to reform Medicaid, which includes the early and periodic screening, diagnostic, and treatment services (EPSDT) requirement that takes a proactive approach to mitigating our youth’s growing mental health crisis,” says Benjamin F. Miller, PsyD, Well Being Trust’s Chief Strategy Officer. “If we don’t work today to connect our kids to the resources they need, we will find ourselves once again scrambling to heal the nation tomorrow – it’s a vicious cycle that must be broken.”
Download the full report here.
If you or someone you know is experiencing anxiety or depression: visit to get screened and access tools and resources; call 1-800-273-TALK (8255) to reach a 24-hour crisis center or text MHA to 741741 at the Crisis Text Line; or call 911 or go to the nearest emergency room if you or someone you know is in crisis.
About California Children’s Trust
The California Children’s Trust (The Trust) is a statewide initiative to reinvent our state’s approach to children’s social, emotional, and developmental health. We work to transform the administration, delivery, and financing of child-serving systems to ensure that they are equity driven and accountable for improved outcomes. The Trust regularly presents its Framework for Solutions and policy recommendations in statewide and national forums. Learn more at
About Mental Health America
Mental Health America (MHA) is the nation’s leading community-based nonprofit dedicated to addressing the needs of those living with mental illness and promoting the overall mental health of all. MHA’s work is driven by its commitment to promote mental health as a critical part of overall wellness, including prevention services for all; early identification and intervention for those at risk; integrated care, services, and supports for those who need them; with recovery as the goal. Learn more at
 About Well Being Trust
Well Being Trust is a national foundation dedicated to advancing the mental, social, and spiritual health of the nation. Created to include participation from organizations across sectors and perspectives, Well Being Trust is committed to innovating and addressing the most critical mental health challenges facing America, and to transforming individual and community well-being. Twitter: @WellBeingTrust
 Media Contacts:
 Nicole Tidei
Senior Account Manager, Pinkston
Well Being Trust
Ariane Le Chevallier
Founder & CEO, Le Chevallier Strategies
Mental Health America
Alex Briscoe
Principal, California Children’s Trust