Text Resize

-A +A
Bookmark and Share

On Children’s Mental Health Awareness Day, Mayor Gray Reports Growth in District’s Mental Health Services for Children

Thursday, May 9, 2013

On Children’s Mental Health Awareness Day, Mayor Gray Reports Growth in District’s Mental Health Services for Children

Services Focus on Prevention and Early Screenings

(Washington, DC) Mayor Vincent C. Gray today said that the District’s system of mental health care for children is serving more children and families than ever before, with a greater number of the best available treatment practices. At an event to commemorate Children’s Mental Health Awareness Day at the Friendship Public Charter School Woodridge Campus, Mayor Gray said that the District has stepped up screenings in public schools, in early-childhood-development centers, and for children who enter foster care.

“Good mental health is essential to a child’s development and ability to succeed now and later in life,” said Mayor Gray. “Research shows that half of all lifetime cases of mental disorders begin by age 14, but it often takes decades before people seek and receive treatment. Early identification can lead to timely treatment.”

“Growing up is stressful. Add in the poverty, unemployment and violence that too many of our young people are exposed to every single day, and it shouldn’t come as a surprise that the mental health of our children is negatively affected,” Mayor Gray continued.

The DC Department of Mental Health (DMH) currently serves about 4,500 children – an increase of 18 percent during the last three years. At the same time, DMH has expanded evidence-based practices and its number of specially trained clinicians for those most in need, including children exposed to trauma. Nearly 400 children are enrolled in these intensive services — up from 50 just two years ago. In addition, DMH’s nationally recognized, community-based Wraparound program grew by 34 percent, now serving nearly 300 children and their families.

These programs make a difference. Eighty-seven percent of the families involved in Wraparound services report improved family life, and 99 percent of the children who were in school stayed in school.

“We are building a robust system of care with a range of services proven to make a difference,” said DMH Director Steve Baron. “We also are developing new ways to reach children and families and increasing access.”

DMH established the Juvenile Behavioral Diversion Program at the DC Superior Court to give certain youth (primarily those charged with misdemeanors) the option of participating in mental-health services rather than prosecution. Early results are promising — the re-arrest rate is lower than the regular juvenile court and half the national rate. Last year, 64 youth voluntarily participated — 10 more than the first year.

By expanding the services and supports in the community, the District has reduced the number of children who must to go to a psychiatric residential facility for treatment — a form of treatment that not only removes children far from home and families, but is more costly as well. Today, fewer than 65 District children are in a residential treatment facility – down from nearly 200 in 2011.

Other highlights of children’s mental health services in the District include:

  • Same-day treatment and medication for children up to six years old available at children’s clinic without an appointment;
  • 24/7 emergency mobile crisis service that will travel to the home or school to treat a child in crisis;
  • Universal screening of children in Pre-K to 2nd grades in 35 public schools — up from 16 two years ago. This program resulted in 2,600 children being screened last year and 800 referred for mental health services;
  • Mental-health consultation services in 25 early-childhood-development centers for staff, parents and caregivers. Approximately 1,300 children were screened last year;
  • 71 percent of children entering foster care have been screened this year;
  • Mental-health clinicians located in 53 public and public charter schools hold prevention, anti-bullying and wellness activities. They provided services to nearly 1,500 children last year;
  • Out-of-home placements in a psychiatric residential treatment facility were reduced to fewer than 65 last year from nearly 200 in 2011.