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DCF Working on Plan to Improve State's Mental Health Services for Kids

The state will partner with the nonprofit Child Health and Development Institute and seek input from families, youths, experts and others.

A news release from the Office of Gov. Dannel P. Malloy:

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy today announced that the state Department of Children and Families (DCF) will partner with families, youths, communities and experts to develop a plan to improve mental health services for children. 

The plan will be given to the General Assembly next fall under a law it passed in the wake of the Newtown tragedy.

"Improving the way we identify and respond to children with mental health needs is critical," Malloy said. "All the best research indicates that the most effective way to do that is to engage families in both treatment planning and in the services they receive. Improving the system means we have to involve families throughout."

“This plan represents a significant step forward in the ongoing realization that mental health issues, especially among our children, can no longer be ignored or hidden,” Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman said. “Promoting the healthy development of our young people and decreasing youth violence will only happen by connecting them and their families with the right services and strategies for their unique needs, and that is exactly what this initiative will do.”  

DCF has chosen to work with the Child Health and Development Institute (CHDI) of Connecticut, a non-profit group with specialized expertise in children's mental health and development. A key component of the planning process is obtaining consumer input through at least 12 forums across the state and continuing throughout the first phase of the plan's development, which will end August 31, 2014. The law, General Assembly Public Act 13-178, calls for the plan to be submitted in October 2014.

DCF Commissioner Joette Katz said family participation is an overriding principle. "Our work is most effective when it is driven by families and children," Commissioner Katz said. "That is true of our direct work with families, and it is just as true of our work to reform systems and enhance services. Families and children must be front and center of the system re-design. The best way to do that is to ensure their voices are heard and that we act on what they tell us to the fullest extent."

"With this law we are breaking down the silos within and across our agencies and establishing a new framework upon which to base the way we treat mental health care for all children and families in the State of Connecticut," said Senator Danté Bartolomeo. "This braided system places the family at the center, with all services focused in on addressing and supporting the needs of the family. This new system was purposefully designed to place a focus on prevention, early identification, and early intervention."

Phase I, which also will include a process of data collection and analysis, will engage consumer input in a number of ways. Consumer and family members will provide input through existing regional "family engagement teams," which will be expanded into public forums. Stakeholders will be solicited for input in specific content areas in which they have expertise through written feedback and by participating in public forums. Other stakeholders will participate in an Advisory Committee to inform the development of the plan. A minimum of 12 forums will be held across the state.  Topics for the forums will include:

 

  • Early Identification
  • Prevention and Intervention
  • Child Welfare and Mental Health
  • Juvenile Justice and Mental Health
  • Education and Mental Health;
  • Evidence-based Practices
  • Cultural Competence and Family Engagement
  • Role of Commercial Insurance
  • Access to Community-based Services
  • Substance Abuse and Recovery
  • Network of Care
  • Data Systems and Infrastructure
  • Autism and Disabilities
  • Other Special Populations
  • Crisis Response and Management

 

CHDI will organize the community forums and consumer input as well as collect and analyze data. The second phase of the plan's development will include sharing a draft with key stakeholders for further input, and revisions will be made accordingly prior to the plan's submission. Based upon feedback from the General Assembly and others, an implementation plan will be developed and biennial progress reports will be issued to the legislature. CHDI and other experts will work with DCF to implement the plan and will continue to provide technical assistance. 

P.A. 13-178 requires the plan to be comprehensive and integrated and meet the behavioral health needs of all children in the state. It also requires the plan to prevent or reduce the long-term negative impact on children of mental, emotional, and behavioral health issues. While work on the plan remains a long-term effort, the state and DCF already have made improvements to the children's mental health system in the wake of Newtown. 

These changes include:

  •  A child and adolescent psychiatric consultation service, called "Access Mental Health," for primary care providers who need expertise and assistance in responding to children with mental health needs is under development and set to begin operation in March;
  • Trauma Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (TF-CBT) is being expanded to serve more children and enhanced through clinician training;
  • A new, evidence-based practice for child guidance clinics called MATCH-ADCT  (Modular Approach to Therapy for Children with Anxiety, Depression, Trauma or Conduct Problems) has begun in four clinics and will be expanded to include additional clinics in the future;
  • The use of Emergency Mobile Psychiatric Services (EMPS) Crisis Intervention by schools increased more than 20 percent during the first quarter of the current state fiscal year;
  • Local EMPS Crisis Intervention providers and their local school systems have expanded the use of Memorandum of Agreements to avoid involvement of law enforcement or disciplinary suspensions/expulsions for children exhibiting difficult behaviors; and
  • A grant has enabled Newtown to hire full-time, long-term behavioral health clinicians embedded in their schools to assist with the long-term recovery to the trauma.

 

This planning process is being funded through a public/private partnership that includes DCF and a major contribution from the Connecticut Health Foundation, which works to improve the health and well-being of all state residents. Additional support is being provided by the Children's Fund of Connecticut and the Grossman Family Foundation.

 

CHDI is an independent, non-profit subsidiary of the Children's Fund of Connecticut working to advance policy, systems, program and practice change that will result in better health and developmental outcomes for children in Connecticut. CHDI is also home to the Connecticut Center for Effective Practice (CCEP), a division of CHDI that focuses on improving mental health care for children across Connecticut.

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