April 11, 2014 – April is Child Abuse Prevention Month – a time to raise awareness on this issue, which is important for Michigan since child abuse and neglect is on the rise as evidenced by the 31 percent increase in confirmed victims between 2005 and 2012. Coincidentally, April is also Month of the Young Child which aligns very well with Child Abuse Prevention Month since data tells us that young children are more likely to be victims of maltreatment. Thus, focusing on preventing child abuse and neglect among this age group is critical to change the unacceptable trend we see in child maltreatment.
Coincidentally, this falls right after Congress approved the Protecting Access to Medicare Act of 2014, which was signed into law on April 1st. Also known as the doc-fix bill, this legislation focuses on Medicare changes but also includes some specific provisions that will benefit challenged families with young children and help prevent child abuse and neglect. Specifically, the doc-fix bill included funding to extend the Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting Program (MIECHV) until March 31, 2015; and it included support for community behavioral health clinics.
In terms of MIECHV funding, this was essential for the State of Michigan since we rely on these dollars to support voluntary home visiting programs in our most challenged urban communities. These high quality, evidence-based home visiting programs help families connect to health, mental health, social, and early childhood services needed to support a healthy pregnancy and a healthy start in life for their infants and toddlers. Evidence-based home visiting programs not only improve birth outcomes and young children’s development and learning, but they have also proven to cut child abuse in at-risk families by as much as half.
Also included in the doc-fix bill was support for a two-year, eight-state pilot program based on the Excellence in Mental Health Act to fund community behavioral health clinics. These clinics would receive an enhanced Medicaid rate to provide comprehensive mental health services to low-income families and children. We know that parents with untreated mental health issues face greater challenges when it comes to supporting their children. This is only exacerbated if the same parents are also struggling financially to make ends meet. Providing additional supports to mental health clinics to comprehensively serve challenged families is essential to ensure a stable and safe home environment where children can thrive.
Please take time to thank Michigan’s Congressional delegation for the passage of the doc-fix bill – particularly Senator Debbie Stabenow who championed the mental health provision, as well as Congressman Camp, Congressman Upton, and again Senator Stabenow who ensured that MIECHV was included in the final legislation.