May 6-12 is Children’s Mental Health Awareness Week. You may be wondering, “Why do we need a Children’s Mental Health Awareness Week?” Did you know that about 20 percent of children have an identifiable mental health need? That’s one out of every five children.
Think about a classroom that has 20 children. Four of those children have an identifiable mental disorder. Yet studies tell us that only one of those children will be diagnosed and treated for the mental disorder. That definitely puts a burden on the classroom teacher. She or he has to deal with behaviors that are a result of the mental disorder.
The family also is faced with the same behaviors. They are not likely prepared to deal with the behaviors, either. Yet with appropriate services and supports, the children could function well in the family and be successful in the classroom.
There are many mental health services for children in Pitt County. They include outpatient therapy, medication monitoring, mobile crisis response, intensive in-home services, day treatment programs, respite care, therapeutic foster care and other out-of-home placements. Some are provided by individual practitioners. Others are provided by large agencies that offer a number of different services. These providers are certified and monitored by East Carolina Behavioral Health. ECBH is the public agency selected by the Pitt County Commissioners to oversee the private providers. You can learn more about ECBH and services for children at www.ecbhlme.org or by calling 877-685-2415.
Also in Pitt County is the Community Collaborative on Child Mental Health and Substance Use. It is composed of a number of community representatives concerned about the mental health of children. Its members include mental health service providers, representatives of the juvenile justice system and local agencies such as the Department of Social Services. Other members include Pitt County Schools, Communities in Schools and the East Carolina Mediation Center. The health and medical community also are represented. Parents and guardians of children with mental disorders are welcomed as members of the community collaborative.
All children have a variety of physical, mental, social, emotional, educational, and developmental needs. For many children with mental disorders, a family often needs help meeting all those needs. A system of care framework is used to provide the necessary services to these children and families. Encouraging and enabling the community to use the system of care framework is one responsibility of the Child Community Collaborative.
What is system of care? The N.C. Collaborative on Children, Youth and Families defines it as a child and family focused framework based on the principles of:
- Inter-agency collaboration;
- Individualized, strength-based practices;
- Cultural competence;
- Community-based services;
- Full participation of families at all levels of the system and
- Shared responsibility for successful results.
At the heart of our system of care is the wraparound planning process known as the Child and Family Team meeting. Child and Family Teams bring family members and their community supports together to develop a plan with the child and the family. The plan builds on the strengths of the child and the family. It also addresses their needs, desires and dreams in a coordinated manner that would not be possible without this approach. For more information about system of care, go to www.nccollaborative.org, or call Keith Letchworth at 877-685-2415.
During Child Mental Health Awareness Week, you might see some people wearing green ribbons. Ask them why they support Child Mental Health Awareness. Better yet, wear a green ribbon to show your support!
Keith Letchworth is System of Care Coordinator at East Carolina Behavioral Health.
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