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  • Mar 14, 2022

Congressional Leaders Visit CHA to Discuss Youth Behavioral Health and Federal Resources

U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and fellow Congresswomen thank CHA for commitment to community health

On Saturday, March 12, Cambridge Health Alliance welcomed the U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Assistant House Speaker Katherine Clark, and Congresswomen Ayanna Pressley and Lori Trahan to CHA Cambridge Hospital for a roundtable. The roundtable featured CEO Assaad Sayah MD and CHA clinicians to share insights on the importance of behavioral health services, the key role that safety net hospitals play in improving the health of their communities, and how federal resources are proving instrumental. Also joining for this historic occasion were State Representatives Marjorie Decker, Mike Connolly and Steve Owens, and CHA Board of Trustees Vice-Chair Bill Lahey.

CHA clinicians spoke passionately about behavioral health care and the challenges their patients face, outlining urgent areas of policy action. Janine Hogan, MSN, RN, nurse manager of emergency services at CHA Cambridge Hospital, described the pressing, heightened levels of people with acute behavioral health needs presenting to CHA and emergency departments across the state, often “boarding” for extended periods awaiting an inpatient placement. Jacob Venter, MD, vice chief of psychiatry operations and division chief of child and adolescent psychiatry, shared how the delay in behavioral health care profoundly affects our youth. Dr. Venter also conveyed the professional support needed for staff and ways to cultivate and fund workforce pipelines, including for individuals of diverse backgrounds, to enter and grow in vital behavioral health shortage professions. Sharmila Mehta, PhD, director of child and adolescent inpatient psychology, detailed the multiple stressors and trauma among patients in the inpatient setting. Dr. Sayah highlighted the many strides CHA is taking to improve access to behavioral health services, including the promising expansion of services at the forthcoming new CHA Inpatient Center of Excellence in Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at the CHA Somerville Campus.

Speaker Pelosi and her colleagues thanked CHA for its patient care and community health initiatives and addressed areas of critical need moving forward. “We have to think in a bigger way about mental health,” said Speaker Pelosi. “It's health [and] I think that the public is ready to understand that health care is health care in every aspect of it.” Additionally, there was an emphasis on the need to “take care of the safety net hospitals first” in terms of essential funding and resources. “I'm in awe of what you do, all of you,” she added.

Video of the roundtable is available here.

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