2021-2022 Government Relations Legislative Agenda

The state legislative agenda for 2021-2022 will be focused on topic related matters rather than specific legislation in order for the Office of Government Relations (OGR) to remain flexible while committing to policies that advance the health and well-being of our patients and children throughout Massachusetts. The COVID-19 pandemic and the recent national spotlight on racism and police brutality have brought to the forefront the need for a systematic shift to refocus on racial and health equity in the upcoming session. This state policy agenda has been assembled with feedback and support from internal experts, external stakeholders, as well as patients, families, and staff. This agenda is not meant to be a comprehensive list of all the bills and topics that may come up during the 2021-2022 session and is meant to be a baseline for future advocacy and policy work. This comprehensive health agenda recognizes the intersection and relationship between many of these topics for the upcoming session.

As such, Boston Children’s Hospital is committed to leading in the four following areas:

Health Care Access

Boston Children’s is committed to ensuring all children have access to quality, affordable, and geographically appropriate health care while addressing health disparities that exist across the Commonwealth. Health disparities are plausibly avoidable, systematic health differences adversely affecting economically or socially disadvantaged groups. Health disparities will be addressed through the following priorities:

  • MassHealth coverage: Protecting MassHealth eligibility, financing and covered benefits throughout the public health emergency and following the crisis.
  • Telemedicine/telehealth: Ensuring that state telehealth regulations to implement the recently passed parity laws include all modalities and locations a patient may access care, including a child’s home or school, services are covered regardless of insurance provider, and that policies support bridging the digital divide, so patients have equitable access to telemedicine services.
  • Additional topics may include the “Cover All Kids” initiative for uninsured children and health care access regardless of immigration.

Social Determinants of Health and Health Related Social Needs

Boston Children’s is committed to policies that address and acknowledge the role that social determinants of health and health-related social needs play in the lives of our patients and families. Social determinants are the circumstances in which people are born, grow, live, work, play, and age that influence access to resources and opportunities that promote health and achieve health equity. Health-related social needs, such as food insecurity, housing instability, or lack of transportation, are real-time gaps in services that impede a family’s health, well-being, and safety, and are associated with worse health outcomes when not addressed with targeted interventions.

  • Housing: Support safe, affordable, quality housing, including housing tenancy preservation programs and homelessness prevention resources.
  • Food access: Continue to support policies that improve access to safe, affordable, and nutritious food resources for children and families across the state.
  • Transportation: Ensure that the MBTA maintains affordable services for public transportation-reliant communities that are historically disproportionately impacted by reductions in services, schedule changes, and other disruptions to the transportation system, and support infrastructure investments in alternative methods of transport, such as walking and biking.
  • Additional topics may include access to quality early education and childcare, equitable public education opportunities for children, and addressing childhood environmental health exposures.

Racial Equity and Social Justice

Boston Children’s is committed to re-examining our work through the lens of racial equity, social equity, and health equity, to better understand how these frameworks impact our policy agenda. Racial equity is the creation and proactive reinforcement of policies, practices, attitudes, and actions that produce equitable power, access, opportunities, treatment, and outcomes for all people, regardless of race. In order to achieve health equity, we must utilize a racial equity lens to focus on the communities facing the greatest inequities. As the legislative session unfolds, we will strive to support legislation that upholds this value, integrate racial equity throughout our whole policy agenda, and focus on the communities most impacted by structural racism.

  • Racial inequities in maternal and infant health: Support legislative efforts to reduce racial inequities in maternal mortality and severe maternal morbidity and promote equitable infant health.
  • Juvenile justice: Work with legislators and partner coalitions to ensure that children and youth have access to a fair and equitable juvenile justice system that aims to reduce ethnic and racial disparities, and to promote policies that improve access to diversion and community-based interventions as alternatives to system involvement.
  • Youth opportunity: Support initiatives that engage youth in job growth opportunities and connect historically underserved youth in bridge-to-college programs.
  • Additional topics may include family economic stability programs, including earned income tax credit and lifting the cap on benefits, addressing cliff effects, and equitable public education funding efforts.

Behavioral health

Boston Children’s is committed to ensuring access to timely and high-quality behavioral health care for children and adolescents across the continuum of care. Behavioral health encompasses the promotion of social and emotional well-being. It also includes the treatment of mental health conditions, substance use disorders, developmental and behavioral challenges, and trauma-related health conditions. We support culturally relevant and equitable models of behavioral health promotion, prevention, and intervention services for children, and the establishment of a responsive behavioral health workforce.

The Government Relations Department will focus our advocacy efforts on:

  • Psychiatric boarding: Addressing the pediatric behavioral health boarding crisis, which results in children waiting days and weeks in emergency departments and medical units, due to a lack of appropriate behavioral health treatment options across the continuum of care.
  • School wellness: Supporting access to upstream school-based social, emotional, and behavioral health services for children and adolescents, including multi-tiered systems of support.
  • Parity and integration: Promoting behavioral health parity recognizes that insurance coverage and payment for behavioral health conditions must be the same as coverage for physical health conditions. Integration recognizes that behavioral health care is an integral part of a child’s overall health, and behavioral health services should be integrated and accessible in the primary care and urgent care settings.
  • Infant and early childhood mental health: Advocating for the behavioral health needs of infant and early childhood-aged children, by raising awareness of the importance of healthy development from birth to 6 and supporting the early childhood workforce, which includes, clinicians, educators, family support specialists, and various other childcare providers.

For more information on the complete behavioral health legislation agenda supported by the Children’s Mental Health Campaign, visit this webpage.