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Represents first step in session-long strategy to support vulnerable children and families

As a mother, a nurse, and a legislator, I know there are few issues as important as the health and safety of our children. Whether it’s a quality education, a safe place to call home, or healthy and nutritious meals, children are at the forefront of my mind as a legislator and at the center of the legislation I’ve voted for in the House of Representatives.

This session, the House is making vulnerable children and families a priority. The entire House is working in tandem on this goal, addressing various aspects of our Commonwealth’s system to ensure they best serve children and families of all backgrounds. This past Tuesday I was proud to vote for An Act Relative to Children’s Health and Wellness, marking the first phase of our two-year long initiative.

The bill, which passed unanimously in the House of Representatives, addresses several key areas to improve health care for children and young adults.

Specifically, the legislation would ensure healthcare coverage on MassHealth for all individuals who were enrolled in DCF foster care until the age of 26, consistent with the standards set under the Affordable Care Act for young adults who remain covered on their parents’ insurance plan. This is a key provision for ensuring young adults maintain access to critical care as they age out of the foster system and enter adulthood.

In my experience working on healthcare policy, behavioral healthcare services are often hard to locate, especially for vulnerable children and families. Our legislation also creates regional childhood behavioral health centers of excellence, which will serve as clearinghouses for comprehensive information on the full range of available public and private programs, service providers, and resources within a community.

Further, the legislation would address the issue of “ghost networks,” which is a term used to describe health insurance companies’ provider directories, which are often inaccurate and outdated, with incorrect contact information and listings for providers that do not actually exist. Our bill would require insurance carriers to have provider directories with accurate information, updated monthly, available to the public. This is a key provision that will increase transparency.

Lastly, the bill creates a series of commissions, task forces, and studies to advance our understanding of mandated reporter laws, children with complex medical issues, pediatric behavioral health screening, school-based health centers, and strategies to increase the pipeline of pediatric providers.

This legislation, which is now pending the Governor’s signature, is one prong in the House’s effort to ensure care and success for vulnerable children and families in Massachusetts.

In September, the Speaker of the House designated me to coordinate the House’s budget and policies relative to vulnerable children and families. I am in the process of convening stakeholders, reading reports, and understanding the data around prevention, protection, and permanency solutions, with the intention of developing a strategy to benefit children and families in our Commonwealth. I look forward to this opportunity as the House continues our session-long initiative on the health and wellbeing of children.