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11/22/2023 Kids Count awards McNamara for support of law that makes school psychological services eligible for Medicaid
STATE HOUSE — Rhode Island Kids Count has awarded Rep. Joseph M. McNamara (D-Dist. 19, Warwick, Cranston), chairman of the House Committee on Education, for his efforts to improve access to school-based psychological services.

McNamara received the Covering Kids Award in recognition of his leadership on behalf of Rhode Island students who need schools that provide students with the mental health supports they need to learn and lead. It was presented during the organization’s Celebration of Children’s Health and Well-Being at the Providence Marriott on Monday.

During the 2023 session, Representative McNamara introduced a new law (2023-H 5010aa) directing that services provided by school social workers and certified school psychologists will be included as health care-related services eligible for federal Medicaid reimbursement.

“It is a tremendous honor to receive this kind of recognition from Rhode Island’s finest advocate for children’s mental health,” said Representative McNamara. “The new law that makes school social workers and certified school psychologists eligible for federal Medicaid reimbursement was something that I had worked on for years. I thought it absolutely imperative that more social workers be available to students as they navigate a more difficult and challenging educational world.”

According to the 2023 Rhode Island Kids Count Fact Book, there has been an increase in anxiety and depression among youth, especially among young children of color and LGBTQ youth since 2020.

In 2019, 15% of Rhode Island high school students reported attempting suicide one or more times during the past year. In Rhode Island between 2016 and 2020, there were 2,356 emergency department visits and 1,236 hospitalizations of youth ages 13-19 due to suicide and 13 children ages 15 to 19 died due to suicide.

An estimated 13.7 million children in the United States have been diagnosed with anxiety, depression or behavioral health disorders. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, behavioral health disorders can prevent children from developing coping and resiliency skills — abilities they need to help them learn, behave or handle their emotions. These skills are essential to healthy social development and help ensure children have a positive quality of life now and into adulthood. 

Rhode Island Kids Count engages in information-based advocacy to achieve equitable public policies and programs for the improvement of children’s lives. Its mission is to improve the health, safety, education, economic well-being, and development of Rhode Island's children with a commitment to equity and the elimination of unacceptable disparities by race, ethnicity, disability, ZIP code, immigration status, neighborhood and income.

For more information, contact:
Daniel Trafford, Publicist
State House Room 20
Providence, RI 02903