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January 2002Vol. 3, No. 1New Jersey Taking Integrated Approach to Mental Health Needs of Children and Families

New Jersey is implementing the Children's System of Care Initiative (CSOCI), a program designed to coordinate and integrate services for children with emotional and behavioral disorders and their families. The program focuses on early intervention and aims to provide 24-hour, 7-days-a-week services. In addition, a statewide database will be established to monitor services.

CSOCI is an attempt to reform and realign New Jersey's child-serving systems. The program's goals include building service plans that are family centered, increasing funding for services, broadening the scope of services, and creating an overall system to coordinate care and better manage across agencies.

The New Jersey initiative is part of a larger, national systems reform effort funded in part through grants from the Center for Mental Health Services (CMHS) at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Both the New Jersey initiative and the national effort led by CMHS recognize that all of the major child-serving systems--child welfare, education, juvenile justice, mental health, mental retardation and developmental disabilities, public health, and substance abuse--are necessary partners and that greater collaboration among these systems is needed to better serve the target population and their families.

Other key partners include the provider community--administrators, frontline practitioners, and traditional and non-traditional providers--as well as families, who must acquire new attitudes, knowledge, and skills in order to be effective partners.

The major components of the Children's Initiative include:

  • Care Managed Organizations (CMOs) that will coordinate local resources through face-to-face care management for children and families with multi-service needs and multi-system involvement
  • Contracted Systems Administrator (CSA), the overarching administrative entity that coordinates care
  • Family Support Organizations (FSOs) that will link families with parent representatives who will support those families as part of the Individual Service Plan (ISP)
  • Unified Screening, which establishes uniform screening and assessment for children.

In 2001, support for CSOCI came from $39 million in new State and Federal funding, combined with $167 million identified in the State Fiscal Year budget for services to children and youth with emotional and behavioral disorders. The 2001 funding pool of $206 million reflected a partnership among the Divisions of Medical Assistance and Health Services, Youth and Family Services, and Mental Health Services. The full budget of $254 million for fiscal year 2002 has been approved, allowing for the continued phase in of CMOs and new services. The New Jersey Department of Human Services anticipates funding to reach $280 million by the end of the 5-year implementation period.

Three counties--Burlington, Monmouth, and Union--were chosen to begin the phase-in of Care Managed Organizations. Contracts for the CMOs in these counties have been awarded, and in each county the selected CMO is already providing services. Other counties will be phased-in in subsequent years.

For more information, visit the New Jersey Department of Human Services' Children's System of Care Initiative ( -- Editor's note: this link is no longer available) or visit the New Jersey Parents' Caucus (