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DC Officials Announce Two Landmark Children's Mental Health Initiatives

Friday, October 11, 2002

DC Officials Announce Two Landmark Children's Mental Health Initiatives

(Washington, DC) Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC), DC Councilwoman Sandy Allen (chair, Committee on Human Services), and Department of Mental Health Director Martha B. Knisley announced on Tuesday, October 8, two multimillion dollar, multi-year federal grants to develop the District's first system of care for children, youth, and families.

The first grant, DC CINGS (Children Inspired Now Gain Strength, pronounced "sings"), is an $8 million, six-year grant from the US Department of Health and Human Services, Center for Mental Health Services. Alternative Pathways, the second grant, is funded in its first year for $2 million from the Juvenile Justice Advisory Group. Together, these programs represent a major step by the city's mental health system to address the diverse and comprehensive needs of children and their families.

Dr. Paul Vance, superintendent, DC Public Schools, the Honorable Lee Satterfield, presiding judge, Family Division, DC Superior Court, Phyllis Morgan, children's advocate and president of Family Advocacy and Support Association, Kelvin Wright, co-chair of the DC Department of Mental Health Youth Advisory Group, and Joe Tulman, chair, Juvenile Justice Advisory Group, also participated in the event attended by more than 50 parents and mental health advocates. The kickoff was held at the newly renovated, future headquarters of the DC Department of Mental Health Community Services Agency.

DC CINGS is a culturally competent, family-driven system of care, in which children, youth, and their families work with child-serving agencies and organizations to serve children with serious emotional disturbances. DC CINGS strives to:

  • Reduce out-of-home and out-of-city placements for children with serious emotional disturbances
  • Encourage mental health treatment as an alternative to child welfare and juvenile justice placements
  • Ensure family involvement in all areas of the system of care's development
  • Enhance and facilitate interagency collaboration and shared decision making
  • Decrease duplication of services among participating agencies and organizations
  • Improve outcomes for children and youth with serious emotional disturbances and their families

The mission of Alternative Pathways is to develop a continuum of community-based mental health services and supports that are strength-based, individualized, and promote healthy outcomes for youth and their families who come into contact with the juvenile justice system. Its goal is to reduce penetration by youth into the juvenile justice system because of untreated mental or behavioral disorders (e.g. to reduce the number of arrests among apprehended youth, detention of pretrial youth, incarceration of committed youth, and out-of-state residential placements). Alternative Pathways will also develop intensive, interdisciplinary training and field-based coaching opportunities for professionals who come into direct or indirect contact with youth in the justice system.

DC CINGS is funded through the Comprehensive Community Mental Health Services for Children and Their Families Program, Center for Mental Health Services, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, US Department of Health and Human Services. The overarching federal program supports culturally competent, family-driven systems of care across the country. The goal is to deliver services in a way that is responsive to the needs of children and their families. Children, their families, schools, and communities benefit when mental health services and other supports are integrated into a single service system to meet the diverse, highly individual, changing needs of children with serious emotional disturbances.

At least one in five American children and adolescents may have a behavioral, emotional, or mental health problem, regardless of race, culture, or economic status. In Washington, DC, it is estimated (conservatively) that:

  • 15 percent of youth (17, 250) would benefit from mental health services
  • 6.5 percent of youth (7,475) require mental health services
  • 5.5 percent of youth (6,325) experience severe emotional disturbances
  • As many as 2 percent of youth (2,300) are at risk for residential placement or acute hospitalization

Unfortunately, children with serious emotional disturbances and their families often do not receive the services and support they need. Together, these programs represent a major step by the city's mental health system to address the diverse and comprehensive needs of these children and their families.

DC CINGS
In Year One, DC CINGS will:

  • Fund a family resource center, staffed with two family members, who will provide information, support and advocacy
  • Fund four family liaison practitioners to be advocates and deliver crisis intervention services to families in their homes. The advocates also will be part of the Multi-agency Planning Team to present the family perspective in decision making about services to be provided to families in difficult circumstances and evaluate how work is proceeding under the grant
  • Plan the infrastructure of the new system of care for children, youth, and families, including the use of technology and development of information databases and interagency coordination and integration
  • Fund the Family Advocacy Support Association (FASA), which has been designated as the District-wide family network grantee through the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration of the US Department of Health and Human Services

Alternative Pathways
In Year One, Alternative Pathways will:

  • Divert youth with primary mental health and behavioral issues from the juvenile justice system
  • Provide wraparound services for youth in the juvenile justice system to ensure their success in living in the community
  • Identify and develop new resources to address the needs of these children, youth, and their families