Health services targeted

May 22, 1994|By Jackie Powder | Jackie Powder,Sun Staff Writer

The county could better serve the mental health needs of children and adolescents by:

* Creating a single point of entry for easy access to services;

* Increasing services in the northern and southern regions of the county; and

* Developing support systems for children when they are released from hospitals or inpatient programs.

Those are among the recommendations for the county commissioners prepared by 15 representatives from county agencies providing mental health services to children and adolescents.

The project was organized by the county's Mental Health and Addictions Advisory Committee to identify shortcomings in the county's mental health services.

A subcommittee began meeting in August to identify gaps in county mental health services for children and adolescents.

"I believe this is the first time that the whole community has come together to take a look at children's mental health services in a comprehensive way," said Kathleen Burrows, assistant director and clinical supervisor of the Carroll County Youth Service Bureau and a member of the subcommittee.

"Now the struggle is going to be finding the resources" to carry out the recommendations, she said.

The subcommittee was co-chaired by Barbara Guthrie, a pupil ** personnel worker with the county school system, and Ed Arndt, a psychologist with the county Health Department.

The establishment of a single point of entry for consumers of child and adolescent mental health services was identified as the task force's first priority.

This arrangement would provide information on services, help avoid duplication of services and provide referrals, task force members said.

"We're hearing from parents that they don't know where to turn . . . and they're just lucky if they're steered in the right direction," Ms. Guthrie said.

"We'd like to set up something where there's a person on the other end of the phone who's supportive, knowledgeable and can assist someone in getting referrals," she said.

The subcommittee recommends expanding child and adolescent mental health services by setting up Health Department and juvenile services satellite offices countywide.

Services are especially needed in the Taneytown and South Carroll areas, the report said.

"People have to come into Westminster for services, and for some families it's very difficult," particularly with limited public transportation in the county, Ms. Guthrie said.

The task force backs improving the support services for children and adolescents who return to the community after hospitalizations or stays in inpatient programs.

These transitional services might include monitoring of medications, outpatient counseling and special services provided at school, Ms. Guthrie said.

A shortage of private psychiatrists in the county for children, as well as adults, forces many people to leave the county for treatment or wait until a crisis occurs before treatment is available, the task force concluded.

"If you don't have really good insurance or the ability to pay, it takes a severe situation, like a suicide attempt, before a person can be seen [by a psychiatrist]," Ms. Burrows said. "We need something on more of a preventive basis to help before we get to that point."

To begin to address the problem, the Youth Service Bureau and Family and Children Services requested $28,000 from the county to hire a psychiatrist to see the two agencies' clients eight hours a week.

The commissioners approved the request and a psychiatrist will begin work July 1, Ms. Burrows said.

The psychiatrist will consult with the agencies' staff about clients, provide diagnostic and evaluation services, prescribe medications if necessary and determine if hospitalization is needed.

The task force recommends providing more services to CINS -- Children in Need of Supervision -- through counseling, mentor services and tutoring.

"Maybe with some extra support, they can get back on track before they commit a crime and end up in the juvenile [criminal] system," Ms. Guthrie said.

A short-term respite care facility for children and adolescents going through a crisis might prevent unnecessary hospitalizations or placements in juvenile facilities, the task force said.

"Kids in these situations frequently end up going to the emergency room needlessly when it's something that could be dealt with in the community," Ms. Guthrie said.

Other task force recommendations include developing a directory of all county mental health services for children and adolescents, providing increased services for pregnant teens and adolescent parents, and providing services within the county to children with eating disorders.

The Mental Health and Addictions Advisory Committee plans to include the report on child and adolescent mental health services in its annual report to the commissioners in July.

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