In America, 1 in 5 children have a diagnosable mental illness. An estimated 60 percent to 90 percent of youth with mental health concerns do not receive treatment. Untreated mental illness leads to problems with school performance, strained family relationships, involvement with Children and Family services, the juvenile justice system, substance abuse, risky sexual behavior, and suicide.
Thurston County families with Medicaid coverage experience barriers to obtaining services. There are limited service providers that accept Medicaid who provide assessment, treatment, and medication. One of the agencies that holds a contract with the Regional Support Network restricts access to outpatient services via a walk in hours at their Olympia offices between 8:30 am and 5:00 pm, Monday-Friday and are unable to ensure that an individual will be seen that day. Imagine taking the day off work, excusing your child from school, sitting in a waiting room all day and not being seen…
Looking forward, there are two main areas that need improvement: awareness and access. First, we need to educate the community, policy-makers, and physicians in the importance of mental health care as it relates to holistic functioning for children and families. Secondly, we need to improve access to care. This would include providing appointments instead of walk in hours, using evidence based wrap-around services for all children prior to involvement with Children and family services or the juvenile justice system, and creating School-Based Health Centers similar to those found in other counties in Washington State.
What if it was your child?