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April 2014Vol. 15, No. 4Improving Mental Health Services to Children

According to a recent report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 20 percent of children experience a diagnosable mental health disorder (such as depression, anxiety, attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder, autism, or Tourette syndrome), but only 21 percent of diagnosed children receive the treatment and services that they need. The research also shows that childhood mental health disorders can be treated and managed more effectively when they are diagnosed and treated early.

In a new factsheet from the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL), Improving Children's Mental Health, authors Kristine Goodwin and Jennifer Saunders discuss many of the barriers to providing appropriate care, such as lack of funding and a shortage of qualified mental health providers. They also present an overview of efforts being made by States to address those barriers. This information may be important to child welfare and related professionals working with children who face additional barriers to the identification and treatment of mental health issues.

Some State efforts to improve services for children include increasing behavioral health coverage under Medicaid and private insurance programs; expanding workforce capacity through loan repayment programs, enhanced residency programs, and using related professionals, such as social workers and mental and substance abuse counselors; integrating mental health and primary care; and utilizing early identification and intervention programs. Federal programs that support mental health services for children also are discussed.

The factsheet, produced as part of the NCSL Legisbrief series, is available on the NCSL website: (183 KB)