Del. Bills Address Mental Health Services, Coverage, Access

Baker Petroleum

Three bills to be filed in the Delaware General Assembly would treat mental health screening and treatment services with the same importance as the annual physical or cancer screening in terms of availability of services.

One proposal would require Delaware health insurers to cover an annual behavioral health well check for every insured person. Other legislation would hire more mental health practicioners to serve in schools across the state.

“We know that unaddressed trauma leads to lifelong mental health challenges, substance use disorders, as well as higher rates of incarceration and negative health behaviors, including suicide. Untreated mental health issues impact a person’s physical health and create costly outcomes over the course of their lifetime. These costs ripple throughout our health care system, our criminal justice system, and our economy at large,” House Majority Leader Valerie Longhurs, D-Bear said.

Additional legislation would create new positions for school counselors, social workers and school psychologists in Delaware middle schools. A companion bill would establish a statewide mental health educational curriculum for kindergarten through 12th grade, tailored to the developmental needs of students at each grade level.

“Even before the pandemic, as many as one in 10 teens and children in this country was experiencing severe depression, while the teen suicide rate has increased by dramatically over the last decade,” State Senator Sarah McBride, D-Wilmington / Claymont said. “Sadly, far too many people never get treatment due to the pervasive stigmas around mental health. We can break that cycle once and for all by talking to our kids early and often about their mental health, and I commend Rep. Longhurst for leading the effort to establish a mental health curriculum, along with mental health services available directly in our schools.”

Meineke