I joined other New Mexico law enforcement leaders today to call on the U.S. Senate to pass legislation to improve the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) to cut crime.
SCHIP provides health care coverage to children from low-income working families. Without increased federal funding for SCHIP, many enrolled kids may lose their coverage. And many eligible kids will not be covered if funding is not increased. At least 18,000 children in New Mexico currently have no health coverage.
During a conference call, I joined Deming Police Chief Michael Carillo and Ernie Ortiz, Deputy Director of the New Mexico High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area, and we released a new research brief from Fight Crime: Invest in Kids. The brief showed that SCHIP can help cut crime by ensuring that children’s behavioral, emotional and mental health problems are identified and treated. In New Mexico, methamphetamine abuse may be one of the factors in the increase in cases of abuse and neglect. As a result, admissions to foster care have increased 26 percent from 2000 to 2005.
The Senate Finance Committee has approved $35 billion in new funding for SCHIP over five years. This would cover 3.3 million eligible but currently unenrolled children. The bill also includes a mental health parity provision. The mental health parity provision would amend SCHIP to ensure that states’ children’s health plans include no financial requirements or treatment limitations for mental health care that are more restrictive than those of other medical benefits of the plan. A number of states currently restrict or limit the amount of mental health coverage children in SCHIP receive. As a result, a family with a schizophrenic child may get less financial help than if their child suffered from diabetes.
The SCHIP legislation will be voted on in the Senate this week. I have asked that Senator Pete Dominici and Senator Jeff Bingamen vote for the SCHIP funding in the Senate. In the press release and letters to the senators I said many children need to be screened for emotional and behavioral problems and, if necessary, provided with treatment to help them lead productive lives. Without health insurance, such screening and treatment is unaffordable for many working families. Failing to provide such services to children may lead to increased crime and violence as they grow up.
“The behavioral and emotional well-being of our nation’s children is just as important as their physical health,” I said. “If we make these investments, and these kids get access to treatment, we will save lives and cut crime.”
I truly believe that shootings at Columbine, Virginia Tech, and the John Hyde's of America can be avoided if mental health problems could be caught and addressed at a young age. Unfortunately President Bush is threatening to veto increased funding for SCHIP, this does not surprise me since President Bush is all talk when it comes to his so called "Compassionate Conservatism". Whether it is cutting COPS Program funding or vetoing funding for children's health care President Bush never ceases to disappoint me.