Lawmaker touts healthcare reform law as tool to protect children's mental health

The Democrats' healthcare reform law is a vital tool in fighting the onset of mental illnesses in children and adolescents, Rep. Doris Matsui (D-Calif.) said Tuesday.

Matsui made the remarks at a Capitol Hill event focusing on national efforts to give adolescents access to routine screening for mental illness. The annual Trendell Breakfast Forum, hosted by the TeenScreen National Center, was titled: "Parity, Prevention and Health Care Reform: Meeting the Challenge through Adolescent Mental Health Checkups."

More than 10 percent of American children are estimated to suffer from a mental illness, Matsui said, and almost 80 percent are not identified and therefore don't receive the treatment they need.

"As we turn towards implementation of the Affordable Care Act," she said in prepared remarks, "I see great opportunity to define prevention broadly and make our focus on prevention a holistic one that includes promoting both physical and behavioral health."

The congresswoman also used the event as an opportunity to pitch her mental-health safety net bill, which she said "would establish evidence-based, federally qualified behavioral health centers to strengthen our local mental health provider networks and ensure that individuals who need treatment can receive high quality affordable care."