Children’s mental health systems need to provide services and supports for every young person who needs care. Too many youths have needs that go unmet, with disastrous results for youths, their families, and our society. Without access to quality treatment young people may fail in school, be separated from their families, detained in juvenile hall, or even take their own lives.
We are taking action to reform public mental health systems so that all young people have access to quality care that reliably achieves positive outcomes. The goals below reflect our vision of how to ensure that public mental health systems affirmatively contribute to an equitable society that adequately prepares our young people to become self-sufficient, contributing adults. Everything we do as an organization is guided by these five strategic goals. This is illustrated on our Impact Pages, where every page highlights our goals for each initiative in the upper right corner of the page, using the same icons as below.
Increase access to mental healthcare for all young people.
Twenty percent of youth with mental health needs don’t receive treatment. We need to do better. Mental health services and supports should be easily accessible to all youth and families who need them, without regard to where they live, how much money they make, or their ethnic or racial identity. This isn’t just good healthcare practice, it’s usually required by law. Most young people have a legal entitlement to mental health treatment!
Improve quality of services available to young people and their families.
Young people and families should not have to choose between off-the-shelf, one-size-fits-all, business-as-usual mental health treatment. Ineffective care impairs results, wastes money, and can harm youths. Children’s mental health systems must provide evidence-informed care that is individually tailored to young people’s expressed needs and strengths and tested for effectiveness. Improved quality of care is the essential ingredient for achieving better outcomes for families and youths.
Promote collaboration between child serving agencies.
A dizzying number of programs and funding sources make up the children’s mental health service “system.” Each agency has its own mission, organizational culture, institutional procedures, eligibility rules, and funding streams. Young people and their families must navigate this non-system that leaves many frustrated, “lost in the cracks,” and without adequate care. Child-serving agencies must be better integrated into a true System of Care where collaboration and teaming ensures that young people are provided the full scope of services and supports they need. Coordinated care is more efficient, less expensive, more engaging, and far more likely to achieve positive outcomes for families and youths.
Ensure accountability of programs and agencies that serve youth.
The complex web of laws, policies, programs and funding that constitute the mental health system is overseen by government managers and contractors who are very rarely directly accountable to young people and their families. If we want to improve access to care, quality of services, and cross-agency collaboration, we must make the program managers and contractors accountable for these outcomes. If we want better outcomes for children and youths with unmet mental health needs, our System of Care must set clear outcome goals, measure and report performance, provide useful and timely feedback to consumers and providers, and reward effective care and quality improvement.
Bolster authentic stakeholder engagement in the creation, implementation, and reformation of the policies and programs that affect their lives.
An effective and competent mental health system reflects the needs and values of the people it exists to serve. Unfortunately, the opposite is often true—decisions about mental health policy and programs are frequently made without the input of youth, parents, health care providers, or other key stakeholders. Authentic engagement by stakeholders can provide vital knowledge for better managing programs and providing services. It is also necessary for building and expressing community support for a politically sustainable children’s mental health system. Strategic communications, community education, coalition building, and community action can make the difference between having a responsive and effective children’s System of Care, and continuing with our non-system that fails to serve many children with serious mental health needs.