Marcie Lipsitt is a special education activist for children in Michigan, and she sent out a report about the serious loss of services there for children with mental health problems. It’s entitled, “In crisis, mentally ill children forced to wait days or weeks for hospital beds,” and includes the plight of a parent who has no place to turn. Her child, diagnosed with autism and who is bipolar, needs mental health support.
It could happen to anyone’s child or adolescent.
Children and teens struggling with mental health issues will struggle in school–especially if school is about making them fit into a mold. And by the looks of information across the country, like Michigan, kids aren’t getting the mental health services they need.
According to a 2014 National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) State Legislation Report concerning mental health budgets, cited below, Michigan, saw a “loss of $156 million to behavioral health.” Rhode Island, North Carolina, Nebraska, Louisiana and Alaska also saw serious cuts to their mental health budgets.
And while it looks like there has been level or even increases to mental health funding in many states, some of those places still struggle with mental health problems in children. Many state budgets for mental health saw a bit of a surge after Newtown, but now, what gains there were are beginning to diminish.
You don’t have to look far to find serious stories of children in crisis. See links to recent reports in Nevada, Alabama, West Virginia, New Hampshire,
California, Florida, Indiana, Kentucky, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Oregon, Ohio,
Colorado, Louisiana, Georgia, Arizona, Iowa, Idaho, Delaware, Connecticut, New Jersey, Illinois, South Carolina, and Oklahoma.
If your state isn’t listed it doesn’t mean they don’t have problems with their mental health system. It means I am still looking. If you have information to add please let me know.
In Texas, they’re wondering why there is so much concern about school testing and not enough attention paid to mental health problems in children.
Some parents give their children up to the state because they don’t have the insurance or resources to get them the help that they need. HERE.
In addition, schools have fallen down on the job of screening students for mental illness.
It is also understood that identifying mental health problems in children and providing them the assistance they need could go far in breaking the school-to-prison pipeline.
Also, while the ESEA re-authorization has a commendable section which addresses screening for mental health needs in schools, they need to focus more on special education. This article provides more comprehensive solutions.
Here you can revisit an article by the Daily Kos “My Daughter Sleeps in Jail Tonight: How Mental Health Treatment Fails America’s Youth.
The Michigan report talks about one of the few mental health facilities for children, Hawthorn Center, a residential hospital that exists in that state. I had the honor of doing part of my student teaching there in the 1970s. Hawthorn was a mecca for high caliber professionals, many from the University of Michigan and other universities, in all areas of mental health, including special educators.
The school there was especially critical, because school provides a normal sanctuary for children in crisis. The classroom is a perfect place to work out issues. Hence the importance of special education teachers who understand emotional disabilities—who study psychology and pedagogy related to children with such difficulties.
It was a huge challenge but well worth it for future teachers. In a time with no iPhones, there were phones in every room and everyone went on a first name basis no matter position. Posturing was dropped in favor of student focus. It was the best teamwork I have ever seen in all my years of teaching. Administrators, psychiatrists, counselors, psychologists, social workers, and teachers all worked closely to benefit the student.
Where are the classes in public schools for students with emotionally disabilities? Public schools should provide an intermediary placement, on the continuum of services before residential placement. And regional areas should have residential centers with professionals that help children, teens and their families 24/7. They should be located as close as possible to where families live so that they can remain connected.
Where are those residential facilities?
Hawthorn Center, it turns out, has 118 beds but only 55 of them are being funded. Parents in Michigan who can’t find a placement for their child must go elsewhere.
What does that tell you?
It is unforgivable that the U.S. has not moved forward when it comes to mental health for children—that children and teens are turned away when they are suicidal or have a major psychiatric event. There should be short- and long-term solutions.
It’s survival of the fittest. Certainly not what I thought it would be like when I did my student teaching. How sad for children and parents in Michigan…and the rest of the country. It looks like we have not evolved to a better place when it comes to mental health services in this country.
Let me know if your school or city is working on behalf of children and teens with mental health difficulties.
HOPE–I did run across some glimmers of hope. Please let me know if you know of others.
- What to do with a child headed to college who has mental health challenges? A great article with suggestions in the Chicago Tribune. HERE.
- Here is a group of courageous and smart moms who connected to fight for their children. HERE.
- Vermont seems to do things right when it comes to identifying children with mental health needs, but they wonder why they have so many “traumatized” students. Could the answer be found in the changes made to their schools in recent years? Vermont used to be a great state when it came to education.
- I have included a hopeful article about healthcare and mental health.
- In Kansas City they are talking about mental health. HERE.
- New York City appears to be trying. HERE.
- Bridging the Gap in Psychiatric Care for Children in Missouri
I hope to add more articles involving HOPE.
“NAMI State Mental Health Legislation 2014: Trends, Themes & Effective Practices.” www.nami.org NAMI Help Line (800) 950-6264
Great article – thank you for sharing the information and encouraging a difficult conversation. I will share with folks in WA state and beyond. Be well, Sally
Nancy Bailey says
Thank you, Sally. I hope it does encourage conversation .