Building the mental health system our city’s children so desperately need – and deserve

Today, we welcome Shannon Hall, the executive director of the D.C. Behavioral Health Association, for a guest post about our newly released data snapshot, Children’s Mental Health in D.C.: The Mismatch Between Need and Treatment.

An advisory committee for the D.C. Medicaid program recently completed a forthcoming analysis of children’s access to mental health services. It found that nearly 9 out of 10 children with diagnosable mental health disorders who are enrolled in Medicaid managed care organizations are not getting the services they need. Why not? D.C. Action for Children’s data snapshot, Children’s Mental Health in D.C.: The Mismatch Between Need and Treatment (released today), points toward some root causes of the problem: the network of mental health providers available to children in Medicaid is inadequate and the managed care system has created barriers to accessing care.

Failure to build an adequate system of accessible mental health services in the District hurts us all. Not only do individual children with untreated mental health conditions suffer, but our whole city bears the cost of the academic and social consequences: untreated childhood mental health needs can contribute to truancy, juvenile delinquency and other costly problems. On the other hand, children whose minds (and bodies) are healthy grow up to be healthy, productive citizens.

As D.C. Action points out, the District needs to act now to create a robust, sustainable service delivery system for children with mental health needs. And, as the Data Snapshot suggests, collecting and sharing key data is an important step in that direction. Baseline data on the prevalence of child mental health disorders and on the availability of services to meet those needs will enable the District – families, providers, advocates and government agencies alike – to pinpoint needs and identify strategies for expanding and streamlining the children’s mental health system.

Along with D.C. Action for Children, the D.C. Behavioral Health Association calls on the District to begin collecting, analyzing and sharing these sets of data – and then using the data to build the mental health system our city’s children so desperately need and deserve.

Shannon Hall
DC Behavioral Health Association

Disqus comments