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Indiana Initiative Helps Meet Children’s Mental Health Needs

PHOTO: Indiana's Children's Mental Health Initiative is helping to ensure all youth who need mental health services are able to access treatment. Photo credit: morguefile.com.
PHOTO: Indiana's Children's Mental Health Initiative is helping to ensure all youth who need mental health services are able to access treatment. Photo credit: morguefile.com.
February 12, 2014

INDIANAPOLIS - The state says an Indiana program launched less than two years ago already is working to ensure children from families who can't afford needed mental health services don't slip through the cracks.

The Children's Mental Health Initiative was created to help children who aren't eligible for Medicaid and whose private insurance doesn't cover the services they need. Lisa Rich, deputy director of services and outcomes for the Department of Children and Family Services, said they've managed to help many families who didn't have anywhere to turn before.

"Their children have significant mental health issues,” she said. “They have at least two diagnoses; they are struggling with behaviors - really struggling to make sure these families are safe in their homes and in their communities."

The department has pledged up to $25 million a year to provide treatment services for those who cannot afford it, she said. The initiative began as a pilot program in 2012 and has since expanded to 78 counties.

Children in need of mental health services are referred to community mental health centers that evaluate each case and recommend a treatment plan. While residential treatment is an option, Rich said many children are able to remain in their homes and receive services.

"We found very early on that very few of those kids were ending up in high-end placements,” she said, “and the families really feel more stable and they're better able to manage those kids' behaviors in the home."

Rich said the Department of Child and Family Services, Division of Mental Health and Addictions, and the Bureau of Developmental Disability Services have collaborated to make the initiative a success.

"It's really the three of us together, looking to ensure that we're building a service array that ensures that kids aren't falling through the cracks,” she said, “which was what was really happening before this program started."

According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, 4 million children in the United States suffer from serious mental disorders.

More information is available online at in.gov/dcs.

Mary Kuhlman, Public News Service - IN