North Carolina is preparing a new initiative aimed at improving youth behavioral health. The Children and Families Specialty Plan is expected to launch later this year.

The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services released an updated policy paper providing details about the initiative this week. The goal is to ensure access to a variety of physical and mental health services for Medicaid-enrolled residents engaged in the child welfare system.

NCDHHS Secretary Kody Kinsley released a statement calling the plan “a first-of-its-kind innovation” which is part of a broader strategy to develop a stronger youth health safety net.

Recent data shows an increased number of high school students consider suicide. The state has also seen a stark increase in children being discharged from emergency departments with behavioral health issues.

In addition to addressing those concerns, the initiative will tackle other issues related to housing, food, transportation, and interpersonal violence.

The Children and Families Specialty Plan is part of an $835 million behavioral health investment from the state general assembly in October.

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