(Lawrenceburg, Ind.) - The Indiana Department of Child Services is launching a pilot program that aims to stop kids from "falling through the cracks."
The program addresses Hoosier children with mental illness who potentially pose a threat to themselves, their family members or others. It allows schools, parents, judges and other community members to contact a designated mental health access site that will assess what the child needs.
DCS Chief of Staff John Ryan presented the plan Monday to the legislative study commission on mental health and addiction. The program is the result of several collaborative meetings between DCS, Family and Social Services Administration, Community Mental Health Centers, juvenile court professionals and county prosecutors.
"This is a small, but important and complex population that presents a big struggle for many families," said Ryan. "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."
Ryan said children who aren’t in the state’s child welfare system or going through the court, but still need treatment, are left in a gray area.
A two-month test run will begin in Lawrenceburg, before DCS evaluates the results and rolls out the program statewide. Ryan stated this is not a foolproof approach, and will require adjustments as it expands beyond the pilot phase.
Community mental health centers in the Lawrenceburg area will handle the intake and coordination of children's cases.
"The community mental health center system in Indiana stands prepared to meet the needs of these children and families by utilizing the expertise of hundreds of licensed and trained professionals across Indiana," said Matt Brooks, chief executive officer of the Indiana Council of Community Mental Health Centers, Inc.
Funding for continuation of the program beyond 2013 remains in limbo, however. DCS is covering the cost of the pilot and statewide implementation at about $11 million for the 2013 fiscal year.
“After that, we will need support from the legislature to continue funding it beyond 2013," Ryan explained. "We anticipate the annual cost to cover services for this population will be about $20 million annually."
Further explanation of the program, including a comparison to the current model for children’s mental health services in Indiana, is available on the DCS website, http://www.in.gov/dcs/.