Tuesday, December 23, 2008

First the alarming statistics, then action

First, the alarming statistics. No blogger worth his/her/its salt lacks alarming statistics. These are brought to you by sessions at the Governor’s Round Table on Children’s Mental Health Nov. 5-6 in Cheyenne.

On the national scene:
  • 4.5-6.3 million children and youth in the U.S. suffer from a serious emotional disturbance
  • 65-80 percent of these children and youth do not receive the specialty mental health services and supports they need
  • Of this, 4.5-6.3 million children, an estimated 70 percent, are involved in the Juvenile Court System

So, in many cases, undiagnosed mental health problems lead to time in court and possibly juvenile detention and/or jail. So, preventive care and early intervention make sense. The mental health profession employs a stunning amount of jargon. I’m still unraveling it, and may have to consult a linguist for help. But in mental health as it is with all aspects of health care, the earlier you catch the problem, the easier it is to treat.

The legal system has its own labyrinthine ways. But one thing seems clear to me: once you’re an offender caught in the legal maze, it’s tough to get out. If you’re a juvenile with mental health needs and drug/alcohol problems, the odds are stacked against you. Wyoming leads the nation in out-of-home placements and juvenile detention.

I’m primarily interested in the mental health aspect. It’s what I’m involved in personally. I see a crying need for solutions in all of these areas.

In a Governor’s Round Table session that addressed "Reducing the Number of Wyoming Children in Placement," panelists (see list below) proposed solutions. Here’s a summary:
1. Wrap-Around Services
a. SAGE Initiative
b. Children’s Mental Health Waiver
2. Need community services and programs to address these needs and serve these children and families. (This doesn’t even touch on mental health needs of families caring for these children.)
3. Family Treatment Courts

All of these options are being addressed. My focus is on number one, although they're all interconnected.

For a page full of links about mental health care and substance abuse, go to http://wdh.state.wy.us/mhsa/recovery/CARecoveryLinks.html. A good place to start.

Governor’s Round Table panelists: Stacey L. Obrecht, Attorney Director, Wyo. Guardians Ad Litem Program; Rick Robb, Director, Child Welfare Services, Wyo DFS; Brenden McKinney, Director, and Lori Hutchinson, Wyo. Casey Family Programs; and Eydie Trautwein, Interagency Coordinator, Mental Health and Substance Abuse Division, Department of Health.

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