Plan Envisioned Early Mental Health Intervention For Children

LAS VEGAS -- A plan that outlined ways to improve mental health services for Nevada's children through 2020 recommended a radical shift in funding priorities from intense intervention for those with severe problems to early prevention and intervention efforts.

The plan authored in 2010 became part of Senate Bill 448, which died in the state Senate Finance Committee in 2011. But Kevin Quint, chairman of the Nevada Commission on Mental Health and Developmental Services, informed Gov. Brian Sandoval in a Jan. 31 letter that the commission remains concerned about the delivery of mental health care to the state's children.

"Consumers continue to report difficulty in accessing services in both rural and urban communities," Quint wrote. "Roadblocks for consumers include lack of understanding the system and how to access the system, financial inability to access care, lack of providers, and lack of focus on early prevention."

The 10-year plan authored by a commission subcommittee recommended that nearly 81 percent of state mental health funding be spent on early prevention through social, emotional and mental wellness activities. The plan estimated that only 6 percent would be spent on intensive services such as residential treatment and outpatient therapy.

At the time of the report, 53 percent of funding went toward intensive services and only 5 percent toward early prevention.

"Research clearly demonstrates that children's healthy social and emotional development is an essential underpinning to school readiness, academic success, health and overall well-being," the report stated. "Prevention and early intervention efforts have been shown to improve school readiness, health status and academic achievement, and to reduce the need for more costly mental health treatment, grade retention, special education services and welfare supports.

"Unfortunately, a significant number of Nevada children experience serious mental health problems and many of them do not receive the services they need."

The report called attention not only to Nevada's high suicide rate, but also to the "highly fragmented, under-resourced and limited in scope" mental health programs for the state's children that "place little emphasis on promoting children's social and emotional well-being and preventing mental health problems."

To address those issues, the report proposed that mental health services for children:

* Begin prenatally and at birth and continue through adolescence, and include support to help children transition to young adulthood.

* Engage families and other caregivers in promoting their child's optimal social and emotional development.

* Include programs that allow children to exhibit a positive mental approach while adapting to significant adversity or trauma.

* Adopt an approach that accounts for the changing needs of children and adolescents as they age.

* Rely on evidence-based research, and are affordable, family-centered, culturally relevant and appropriate for the child's development.

* Use natural settings, including early childhood programs, homes, schools and primary health care locations.

* Promote individualized care for each child and their family.

* Assure that all professionals who provide services are adequately trained and prepared.

* Maximize public and private resources and invest sufficient resources over time.

Quint's letter to Sandoval also highlighted "the workforce shortage in the entire adult and children's mental health system, including psychiatrists, psychologists, nurses, etc. State budget cuts over the last four years have taken their toll but a more acute issue is the fact that many of the facilities under (Mental Health and Developmental Services) and in the community at large are experiencing difficulty attracting and retaining licensed professional staff."

Quint cited a 2004 report from Mental Health America that ranked Nevada second to last in the nation with only 6.1 psychiatrists per 100,000 residents.

 


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