GUEST COMMENTARY: DCS's solution still fails to offer immediate help

2012-09-30T00:00:00Z GUEST COMMENTARY: DCS's solution still fails to offer immediate helpBy Barb Layton
September 30, 2012 12:00 am  • 

After months of feeling consumer pressure, the Indiana Department of Child Services suggests launching a pilot program to address children with mental health issues.  Under intense media pressure and parents testifying to the legislative study committee, the department tosses millions of dollars back into the budget.

They suggest the funds and program be given to community mental health centers.  We are concerned that community mental health centers already have six to eight weeks delays for appointments.

When a child is out of control, the parents are told to take them to the emergency room. There an intake worker from the community mental health center comes in and does an evaluation. They contact the doctor and are told to admit the child. Now they can't find a bed, so they tell you to take the child home.

Are you seriously going to ask the community mental health center to find more options for your child? The community mental health centers are understaffed as it is. How are they going to take on more responsibility?

They proposed to distribute funds to community alternatives to psychiatric residential treatment facilities which many counties don’t even have. Psychiatric residential treatment facilities and community wrap-around services are not going to help these kids. They have been down that road a few times already.

These children have much more serious issues that a band aid is not going to fix. What happens to the children and families needing services now? Do they wait for the contracts to be signed, agreements to be initiated, and money to be distributed? Do we continue telling families in crisis to wait a bit longer? 

DCS already has a statue to help these families. They choose not to use it hence propose another bureaucratic process to sometime provide services. They are admitting to a problem, but they won’t help these kids now. This is not something you can just put on hold until something better comes along. 

We are happy they are considering adding funds, but, as always, what is the plan?  They say this will provide funding for 350 children. If you are a parent of these children, they are not a number. They are in crisis now. 

Maybe DCS thought throwing money at the problem will pacify families and the heat to provide services immediately will subside. In the meantime children and families are suffering at this hour, this day, this week. 

What child suicide, assault or family tragedy will occur today as we wait for the proposed solution?

Barbara Collins-Layton is executive director of NAMI Porter County (National Alliance on Mental Illness) and a parent of a child with a serious mental illness. The opinion expressed in this column is the writer's and not necessarily that of The Times.

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