DCS launching pilot to address children with mental health issues

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The Department of Child Services announced Monday that it will fund a two-month pilot program that will utilize local services to provide help for juveniles with mental health issues.

DCS Chief of Staff John Ryan discussed the pilot program at a meeting held by the Indiana Commission on Mental Health and Addiction. The commission discussed whether prosecuting attorneys should be allowed to file a petition alleging a child is a Child in Need of Services under Indiana Code 31-34-1-6 as well as the unmet mental health needs of children within the juvenile justice system.

Legislators created an interim study committee earlier this year to study these issues.

"This is a small, but important and complex population that presents a big struggle for many families," Ryan said. "For decades the only way these children have been able to get care is by entering the court system as a juvenile delinquent, or to have their parents claim neglect so the child can become a ward of the state. And everyone agrees – from state agencies, to prosecutors, to judges, to probation officers, to mental-health experts, to families – that is not the way to help these kids."

He said some kids with mental health issues fall into a “gray area” because, by law, DCS is only responsible for protecting children in situations of abuse and neglect by a parent, guardian or custodian.

A statutory change in 2008 took away prosecutors’ ability to file “CHINS 6” petitions, giving it solely to DCS. These petitions allege that a juvenile is a danger to himself or herself or to another person.

The pilot will launch in Lawrenceburg in the next two months. Schools, judges, probation officers, families, and others will be able to contact designated mental health access sites in their local area to refer a child in need of intensive services. Those sites will assess the child’s level of need and coordinate care, according to DCS.

The state agency initially will pay for the children who are not covered by private insurance or who are not Medicaid eligible, but it is asking legislators for around $20 million a year to cover the program across the state. DCS will cover the pilot and statewide implementation, which it says will cost around $11 million for the 2013 fiscal year.

The pilot program was developed through collaborations among DCS, Family and Social Services Administration, Indiana Council of Community Mental Health Centers Inc., juvenile court professionals and county prosecutors.



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