Consistent—and Expanded—Access to Comprehensive Support Services

Presented with even the highest quality programming or the best-aligned systems designed to make connections with school and the workforce, opportunity youth will continue to struggle with disconnection if the supports available to them outside of these structures fail to meet their basic needs. Stronger support services are needed to ensure healthy, supportive, and stable environments for youth who have been historically underserved by all levels of government and are, as a result, at heightened risk of disconnection.

To fully engage opportunity youth in reconnection efforts and lessen the risk of disconnect for future generations, the federal government can ensure access to comprehensive health services and work to meet the social needs of disconnected youth.


The Department of Agriculture can:

  1. Strengthen and increase investments in WIC and SNAP and explore opportunities to expand youth coverage, including extending pandemic-era eligibility for college students.
  2. Extend pandemic-era expansion of the National School Lunch Program to provide breakfast and lunch to all students free of charge throughout the school year and during summer programming.

The Department of Housing and Urban Development can:

  1. Strengthen low-income supports — including housing choice vouchers and resources for individuals experiencing short-term housing instability — to meet the full needs of homeless youth and families with children.

Congress can:

  1. Ensure that the Medicaid program receives adequate federal funding by increasing the Federal Medical Assistance Percentage.
  2. Allow states to cover services for Medicaid beneficiaries who are incarcerated during the 30 days preceding their release in order to facilitate post-release coverage and access to care.
  3. Strengthen investments in civil legal aid and other access-to-justice functions under the Department of Justice to help reduce barriers to benefits and entitlements.

The Department of Health and Human Services can:

  1. Encourage states to avail new opportunities to use Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program to address the social determinants of health, including reimbursing for and encouraging the use of ICD-10 Z codes to document beneficiary needs related to these determinants.
  2. Strengthen oversight and enforcement of the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act to ensure that Medicaid, CHIP, and commercial insurance plans remove barriers to providing timely, comprehensive mental health care and adequately reimburse providers.
  3. Limit and rescind Section 1115 waivers granted by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services that allow states to limit and restrict eligibility, cut benefits, or cap funding, including block grants, work requirements, lockouts, exclusions for mental health and substance use disorder treatment, and elimination of retroactive coverage.
  4. Confirm that states fully implement the statutory changes to Medicaid included in the Substance Use-Disorder Prevention that Promotes Opioid Recovery and Treatment for Patients and Communities (SUPPORT) Act to ensure that youth Medicaid eligibility is not terminated upon incarceration and that youth are enrolled upon release.
  5. Invest in and expand the integration of evidence-based behavioral health, mental health, and addiction treatment services in pediatric primary care settings leveraging the Health Resources and Services Pediatric Mental Health Care Access Program, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration grant programs, and child and adolescent mental health workforce expansion.

The Department of Education can:

  1. Increase grant funding for high-quality afterschool and summer learning programs for students in all grade levels, prioritizing those in rural settings.