Systems of Care Help Youth with Serious Emotional Disturbance
Comprehensive systems of care enhance the social functioning, improve school attendance
and grades, and reduce severe behavioral and emotional problems and contact with law
enforcement in children with mental health problems according to the findings of a
SAMHSA report. The findings are contained in the Annual
Report to Congress on the Evaluation of the Comprehensive Community Mental Health Services
for Children and Their Families Program, 1999.
After 2 years of receiving services, 42 percent of the children
in the program showed a significant reduction in severe behavioral
and emotional problem symptoms. An additional 48 percent of the
children were stabilized. The report also shows that after 1 year
in systems of care, the percentage of children with serious emotional
disturbances receiving average or above-average grades in school
increased nearly 20 percent.
Likewise, the percentage of children in special education classes
receiving average or above-average grades increased by nearly 15
percent. Other data indicate that systems of care lead to other
marked improvements in the lives of children, such as significantly
fewer arrests and more stable living arrangements.
Serious emotional disturbances are diagnosed behavioral, emotional,
and mental disorders that result in functional impairment and substantially
interfere with or limit major life activities. Systems of care help
children with serious emotional disturbances and their families
by integrating community services into a single, comprehensive,
family-focused, culturally competent, and community-based service
system that is able to meet their highly diverse and changing needs.
Since the enactment of the Children's and Communities Mental
Health Services Improvement Act of 1992, the Comprehensive Community
Mental Health Services for Children and Their Families Program has
supported the development of systems of care in communities across
the United States. This report presents data accumulated through
August 1999 from 31 grant communities that established systems of
care for approximately 40,000 children and their families.
"Many people do not realize that about one in 10 children
in the United States has a serious emotional disturbance, and one
in five has a diagnosable mental health disorder," said SAMHSA
Administrator Charles G. Curie, M.A., A.C.S.W. "The data illustrate
the progress that 'systems of care' are making. Our
job now is to work with states and communities to use our latest
findings about 'systems of care' to implement effective
treatments, services, and supports nationwide."
In addition to positive outcomes for children, the report shows
that systems of care also are achieving another important objective,
which is actively involving family caregivers in the decision-making
process for their children's treatment plans. Nearly 75 percent
of those families surveyed indicated that they were asked for ideas
and opinions concerning their child's treatment, and more
than 75 percent said they "always" or "usually"
had a choice in the range of services their children received. Also,
more than 75 percent rated the quality of their child's mental
health services as "excellent" or "good."
"Active family involvement is one of the keys to success
for systems of care," said Bernard S. Arons, M.D., Director
of SAMHSA's Center for Mental Health Services. "Families
actually take the lead in helping their children get the effective,
individualized services that they need," he added.
For a copy of the report, contact SAMHSA's National Mental Health
Information Center at P.O. Box 42557, Washington, DC 20015. Telephone:
1 (800) 789-2647 or (866) 889-2647 (TDD). Web access:
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