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Mental Health Treatment Inequities Separating OH Families

Some Ohio parents give up custody of their children with mental health needs in order to gain greater access to services. (Pixabay)
Some Ohio parents give up custody of their children with mental health needs in order to gain greater access to services. (Pixabay)
March 1, 2016

COLUMBUS, Ohio - Raising a child with more than one physical, mental, or behavioral issue is a daunting task, and some Ohio parents go to great lengths to give these multi-system youth the best shot at life.

Dave Mohler adopted his grandson at age 11, who had multiple diagnoses. Mohler and his wife lived in Walbridge in southeast Ohio at the time, where he says it was very difficult to access mental health treatment.

After much research, his wife and grandson moved to northwest Ohio, where more resources were available.

Mohler says he needed to continue upkeep on his farm – and, while divorce was never on the table, he and his wife lived as a separated couple for more than five years.

"Not knowing from day to day whether he would be in crisis; it was very stressful," says Mohler of his grandson. "I don't think the 'D' word ever came up, because we knew that was the best option at the time for our son to get the services."

Faced with financial barriers and other stressors, other parents give up custody to child protective services in order to access behavioral health and developmental services for the child.

A recent 40-county survey in Ohio found nearly one-third of multi-system youth who entered child services in June, 2015 did so because their parents relinquished custody.

And these are not unfit parents, says Franklin County Juvenile Court Judge Doug Shoemaker. He explains they are doing what they believe is in the best interest of the child.

"Your child can need inpatient care for substance abuse or mental health, and you can be a perfectly successful person, a great parent, a loving grandparent," says Shoemaker. "A lot of people don't earn their way into this; it just happens."

Mohler adds more attention is needed to the inequities in mental health services, so families can stay together.

"Many families are traveling horrendous distances to get care," Mohler states. "Even to the point that families get divorced – because if they're divorced, all at once there's availability of services that they can't get while they're married because of income."

A state legislative joint committee is examining this issue, along with other matters involving multi-system youth, and Mohler is among the parents who will testify in the coming weeks.

Mary Kuhlman, Public News Service - OH