Children’s Mental Health
Supporting a New Way of Delivering Children’s Mental Health Care
In 2002, the state of Connecticut implemented Connecticut Community KidCare, a new delivery system for children’s mental health. Before KidCare, children’s mental health care had been a centralized model—children received treatment for mental health issues in hospitals. About 25 percent of children being treated were using 80 percent of state resources. Many mental health issues were not identified until they were serious and required intensive treatment.
KidCare would move mental health care to a community-based model, where children were treated in their communities, where they could be close to home and families could be involved. It established 26 “community collaboratives” comprising mental health service providers, parents, and community organizations to create a local system of care.
However, once these collaboratives were established, the state provided little ongoing support for them. In 2003, the Connecticut Health Foundation supported 12 collaboratives with grants and technical support to help them transition to the new local care model. CT Health resolved to help them develop infrastructure, provide more effective services and increase the role of parents within the collaborative.
Ultimately, the KidCare model was underfunded, but CT Health’s efforts in the local arena did help bring change in the way Connecticut viewed and treated children’s mental health issues. Additionally, it cemented the foundation’s belief that in order to succeed, mental health systems needed to move from treatment of kids in crisis to early identification and prevention of mental health issues.
Do Your Homework
When CT Health partnered with the state, they assumed they had an accurate picture of the state of mental health care in Connecticut. In reality, there were many gaps in children’s mental health services both inside and outside of collaborative communities. More extensive research would have given CT Health a more complete picture of the current condition of children’s mental health care and a better starting point.
Give It Time
While three years may seem like a long time, CT Health quickly learned that it’s not enough time to build an infrastructure that would enable widespread change in the children’s mental health care delivery system.
Have a Phase-Out Strategy
In this case, CT Health had a plan for funding and supporting community collaboratives for three years. But what about when three years is up? It’s important to outline a clear plan for what happens when involvement and funding stop.