Letter to Hilary Rodham Clinton Concerning Conference on Children's Mental Health

Hillary Rodham Clinton
Office of the First Lady
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Ave, NW
Washington, DC 20500

Dear Mrs. Clinton:

On behalf of the 159,000 members and affiliates of the American Psychological Association (APA), I want to thank you for convening the public-private collaboration meeting on the mental health of children on March 20. We applaud your ongoing efforts to ensure that children with emotional and behavioral conditions are appropriately diagnosed, treated, monitored, and managed by qualified health care professionals, in collaboration with parents and educators. I thank you for including our organization in this important event.

We look forward to a continuing dialogue on children’s mental health and want to extend our support to help organize a successful conference on the treatment of children with behavioral and mental conditions. We hope that this conference will use scientifically-based information to help parents, educators, and health professionals understand critical issues regarding preventive approaches, the complexities of accurate diagnosis, and the types of behavioral and pharmacological treatments available to help children with mental disorders. We encourage you to consider two core issues affecting quality care for children with mental disorders in these discussions: (1) access to qualified mental health professionals, and (2) the effects of insurance requirements and the structure of managed care plans, which too often preclude behavioral interventions in favor of psychotropic medication.

We hope this conference will bring further attention to the critical need to increase funds for research on children’s mental health issues, particularly those that involve very young children. The scientific foundation needed to improve the treatment of children with emotional and behavioral conditions is incomplete. For example, we do not have enough empirical research on diagnostic assessment of very young children, nor do we know enough about appropriate ways to measure accurately current behavior in preschool children to predict their future behavior. In addition, we know too little about the potential impact of psychotropic medications on a child’s developing brain, or about the degree to which gains made while taking medications are sustained after medication usage stops. Research is also need to examine the efficacy of behavioral and/or pharmacological interventions to treat various mental health problems and disorders in preschool-age children.

APA has access to an extensive membership, including researchers, practitioners, and educators, whose work is critical to understanding the social, emotional, and physiological development of children and youth. APA’s commitment to children, and particularly children’s mental health, is evident in APA’s involvement in activities ranging from our annual support of the National Head Start Conference, to our public awareness campaigns such as Warning Signs (focused on helping communities address youth problems) and Reason to Hope (educating parents of young children about prevention), to recent Capitol Hill briefings on youth violence prevention and preventing educational failure.

Please find enclosed a list of clinical and research psychologists with wide-ranging knowledge on children’s mental health issues, together with contact information for the two members of the APA Board of Directors who would represent our organization at the conference. As part of that list, we have included information about seven of APA’s divisions specifically devoted to children and child development.

Thank you for your dedication to our nation’s children and your continuing efforts to raise awareness and improve public policy regarding the mental health of our nation and all its citizens.


L. Michael Honaker, PhD
Deputy Chief Executive Officer

Cc: Donna Shalala, PhD
David Satcher, MD, PhD
Steven Hyman, MD
Jane Henney, MD
Judith Heumann, MPH
Ronald Levant, EdD
Patrick DeLeon, PhD, JD