Children With Mental Health Programs Do Not Receive Adequate Care

Ruzanna Harutyunyan's picture

Children with serious mental health problems do not receive adequate care in more than one in five states, according to a survey released on Thursday, USA Today reports. The survey, conducted by Janice Cooper of the National Center for Children in Poverty at Columbia University, included responses from state and local officials, as well as others involved with mental health care for children.

The survey found that most children who receive care through public mental health programs are in low-income families or foster care. According to the survey, many states support school-based mental health programs, but such programs are not consistent. In addition, although some states require or promote care that studies have proven effective as treatments for specific mental health problems, most do not have such requirements, the survey found.

The survey also found that some federal and state policies prohibit Medicaid reimbursements for preventive or early mental health care for children. The states that reported the highest-quality public mental health programs for children included Washington state, Ohio, New York, Vermont and Maine, according to the survey.


Cooper said that the current economic downturn likely will shift more children to public mental health programs as states reduce spending for such programs.

Darcy Gruttadaro, children's issues director at the National Alliance on Mental Illness, said that, although many states have public mental health programs for children, "they often have long waiting lists, ... so families just can't get good care for their kids."

Michael Hogan, commissioner of the New York State Office of Mental Health, said, "We know what to do," adding, "Our failure to address these problems early is costing us time, it's costing us money, and frankly, it's costing us children's lives" (Elias, USA Today, 11/20).

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