Commission on Children Follow-up

At yesterday’s first meeting of the Commission on Improving the Status of Children, several members focused on mental health as a top priority, according to Marisa Kwiatkowski, Indianapolis Star reporter, who was live tweeting from the meeting (@IndyMarisaK).  See wrap-up article here.

Let us hope that it is true.

Kevin Moore from the Division of Mental Health and Addiction (DMHA) noted that they have “elevated” their section dedicated to kids.  According to a recent report (starting on page 10), Indiana currently only has one state hospital that served adolescents age 13-17.  The report noted that 2011 population estimates of Indiana children with Serious Emotional Disturbances.  There were 105,940 children 9-17 years old with a global assessment of functioning (GAF) score of less than 60 out of a total Indiana population of 814,926 aged 9-17.  If accurate, 13% of the adolescent population was struggling with Serious Emotional Disturbance.  During testimony last summer before the DCS interim study committee, Mr. Moore noted that the lone facility had less than twenty-five beds devoted to teenagers for the entire State of Indiana.

Mike Dempsey from the Indiana Department of Correction (IDOC), Division of Youth Services, and Larry Landis from the Indiana Public Defender Council both spoke about the unnecessary commitment of children to the IDOC as a way to access mental health services.  Mr. Landis also noted that children are routinely detained in detention centers around the state due to mental health issues.

For true reform, several state agencies will have to collaborate, including the Indiana Department of Child Services, who holds the biggest pot of money to authorize services for children, the Division of Mental Health and Addiction, and the Bureau of Developmental Disabilities.  Legislators will likely have to reallocate budgets to allow these agencies to meet the needs of the children.

For now, DMHA has a limited list of providers for children around the state.  The Community Mental Health Locator designates the community mental health center covering each county.  The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI)-Indiana provides resources and trainings, including a list of support groups for families (all participants must be at least 18 years of age).

CHINS 6 is still an option for keeping children out of the juvenile delinquency system when they are profoundly mentally ill and in need of services.  Since July 1, 2013, prosecutors once again have the authority to request permission to file CHINS 6 petitions, along with Indiana Department of Child Services attorneys.  See this prior post.

Finally, the Commission on Mental Health and Addiction focused some attention on these same concerns last summer, and will likely play a role in future change.

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