Millett introduces bill to help families access best behavior therapies for children with disruptive disorders

Posted: April 10, 2017 | Senator Millett
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A bill introduced by Sen. Rebecca Millett, D-Cape Elizabeth, would increase access to family therapy sessions for families who need assistance learning how to best care for children with mental health needs.

The bill — LD 384 “An Act To Strengthen Maine Children’s Mental Health” — would require the state Department of Health and Human Services to reimburse therapists who provide family or multi-family session to MaineCare recipients without the child present. The bill received a public hearing in the Legislature’s Health and Human Services on April 7.

“As a member of the Education Committee, I constantly hear about the increasing number of behavioral issues that our public school teachers are faced with on any given day and the increasing severity of the problems,” said Sen. Millett. “Maine’s children psychiatrists work hard to treat behavior disorders, but a lack of MaineCare reimbursement keeps them from treating many of the students and families who need help the most.”

Young children with disruptive behaviors or attention deficit disorder are at a greater risk for school failure and to develop conduct disorder. However, studies show that at least a third of these children can be helped by specific parent management training programs. In many instances, such programs can avoid the need for medication. These trainings happen without the child present and under current MaineCare reimbursement rules, providers cannot bill for reimbursement because the child isn’t present for the session. North Carolina and California have enacted laws similar to LD 384.

Dr. Stephen Meister, a Developmental-Behavioral Pediatrician and the incoming President of the Maine Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics, was one of several medical professionals who spoke in favor of the bill.

“No one wants to provide medications that have potential side effects when there is a better alternative,” said Dr. Meister. “Evidence based behavior therapies provide that better alternative. We must make certain that our therapists are trained in evidence based therapies and that the therapies are fully reimbursed.”

Disability Rights Maine and the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) Maine also spoke in favor of LD 384. No one opposed the bill.

LD 384 faces further action in the Health and Human Services Committee and votes in the House and Senate.