The Bipartisan Safer Communities Act (S. 2938), combining measures from several previous bills in the wake of recent mass shootings in Buffalo, N.Y., and Uvalde, Texas, places safety restrictions on access to firearms, a move in line with the AAFP’s work to treat gun violence as a public health epidemic. It also answers the Academy’s push to address a mental health emergency by providing considerable support for several programs that the AAFP has staunchly advocated for, benefitting primary care practices and patients.
Specifically, the law
The Academy’s April letter to lawmakers (co-signed by numerous other health care organizations) urging “robust funding” for the Pediatric Mental Health Care Access Program — which increases children’s access to mental health services and enhances the capacity of pediatric primary care teams to deliver vital behavioral health treatment —cited a RAND Corp. study indicating that “12.3% of children in states with programs such as the ones funded under this HRSA program had received behavioral health services, while only 9.5% of children in states without such programs received these services.”
Some 139 million Americans live in mental health professional shortage areas, and one in five children and adolescents experiences a mental health condition each year. With these and other grim numbers in mind, the Academy last fall supported the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and the Children’s Hospital Association in declaring children’s mental health a national emergency and this year has ramped up its advocacy for behavioral health integration in primary care practices and a number of the initiatives contained in S. 2938.
Last month, nearly 300 family physicians advocated for mental health legislation on Capitol Hill as part of the AAFP’s annual Family Medicine Advocacy Summit, supporting bills that reauthorized the Pediatric Mental Health Access Program, among other measures ultimately included in S. 2938.