Tag Archive: News Leader

  1. How far has children’s mental health treatment come? What’s still needed?

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    Campaign Coordinator Margaret Nimmo Crowe was asked by the Staunton News-Leader to write a commentary column about the changes in children’s mental health to run alongside a news article about the history of the DeJarnette buildings in Staunton. These buildings formerly housed a “state sanitorium” but now stand empty. You can also see a timeline of the changes in the DeJarnette facility and the founding of the Commonwealth Center for Children and Adolescents.

    Here is Crowe’s commentary column:

    Children’s Mental Health System Improves, but Unmet Needs Remain

    Given the reports of the Dejarnette Center’s disturbing history, the phrases “caring and compassionate staff,” “unwavering support,” and “the staff …saved my daughter’s life!” seem like they cannot possibly describe the same place.

    Actually, these are direct quotes from former patients and their parents about the care they received at the Dejarnette Center in the 1990s and more recently at its replacement for children, Commonwealth Center for Children and Adolescents.

    Moving from a history of shameful treatment of people with mental illness to providing intensive, life-saving psychiatric treatment shows just how far the children’s mental health system has come. The focus has shifted from the isolation of institutionalization to the integration of community-based treatment. Advances in scientific research about children’s developing brains and effective therapies have taught mental health professionals much about treating these disorders so that these children can reach their potential.

    The problem, however, is that the knowledge about treating children’s mental health disorders is not made available to all who need it. As many as 100,000 children and adolescents in Virginia struggle with severe mental health disorders, but as few as 20 percent actually receive the help they need.

    The array of treatment options needed by children with serious conditions is inadequate in every community in the Commonwealth. Particularly glaring is the lack of access to child psychiatrists and community-based crisis response services that can help children avoid hospitalization.

    Fortunately, the 2012 General Assembly – with the leadership of local legislators Sen. Emmett Hanger, Del. Steve Landes and Del. Dickie Bell – began to remedy this failing by allocating $3.275 million over two years for crisis response and psychiatric services for children in three regions of the state. This is an important advancement for the children’s mental health system, but it is only a start.

    Virginia must commit to expanding these types of services to the entire state so that children can be treated effectively where they live. It is much less expensive to treat children with mental health conditions than to ignore them and pay for the all-too-frequent consequences of untreated mental illness: school drop-out, homelessness or incarceration.

    As we continue to improve mental health treatment for children, we must publicly promote their potential for recovery. Unlike in the past, when we shunned these children, today we must recognize that they – like all children – deserve to be treated with dignity. We can send the clear message that we value their lives and their potential by adequately caring for their mental health needs.

    Then, all children in the Commonwealth with mental illness could relate to this quote from young man who was treated in one of Virginia’s state hospitals as a teenager:  “During the short period I was there I was given something that I would have never thought possible: hope. The staff members were incredible in their ability to show me that I wasn’t alone and that I could get better.”


  2. Legislative Forum: Staunton/Augusta event highlights need for mental health services

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    “’It’s always the cost. It’s always about money,’ Bell said. ‘We never talk about the real needs of children with mental health issues. What’s the cost to society if we don’t find the money?'” Delegate Dickie Bell at the August 9th legislative forum in Staunton, as quoted in the Staunton News Leader.

    On Thursday, Aug. 9th, Campaign for Children’s Mental Health Coordinator and Voices Policy Director Margaret Nimmo Crowe spoke at a legislative forum on mental health needs in the Commonwealth, sponsored by the Valley Community Services Board and advocacy group Mental Health America of Augusta (Executive Director Donna Gum pictured above with Margaret Nimmo Crowe). The forum was “headlined” by talks from Delegates Steve Landes and Richard “Dickie” Bell, both representing areas of the Shenandoah Valley. Holly Herman, legislative aide for Senator Emmett Hanger, also gave comments.

    On behalf of the Campaign, we focused comments on recent increases in intake and readmission rates for the nearby Commonwealth Center for Children and Adolescents can be indicative of the need for increased and better-equipped community-based services, so that even when children with mental health needs require hospitalization, their home communities are well-prepared to support them upon release — which can sometimes decrease hospitalization times and often prevent readmission.

    We also reminded legislators and other attendees of the benefits to children provided by the Affordable Care Act, most especially provisions that eliminate refusal of insurance based on pre-existing conditions and those that eliminate annual and lifetime limits on insurance coverage. These caps can often hamstring families whose children require extensive (and often expensive) mental health treatment, or multiple hospitalizations within the same calendar year.

    Especially notable was Delegate Bell’s expression of support for increased mental health care for Virginia’s children. Delegate Bell conveyed his commitment to advocating for this issue, one he called ‘very close to his heart’. He also lauded the Campaign’s efforts in advocated for much-needed state funding this 2012 session for mobile mental health crisis response teams and additional child psychiatry supports. Senator Hanger’s aide Holly Herman also expressed the Senator’s strong support for this funding, and his critical role in the outcome.

    You can find a good overview of the forum from the News-Virginian here.

    The Staunton News Leader also covered the event, and you can read its coverage here.

    The News-Virginian’s editorial board also echoed Delegate Bell’s call for expanded children’s mental health resources in an excellent editorial here.

    Thanks to all our Campaign advocacy partners in Staunton/Augusta for this opportunity for citizens to hear from their legislators about the critical issue of mental health services.

  3. Advocacy Works!

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    According to today’s Staunton News-Leader, Senator Emmett Hanger is leading the charge on investing in children’s mental health services. Here’s an excerpt from the article:

    Hanger, one of the six senators named to negotiate differences between the House and Senate budgets, will argue that instead of splitting the difference between the House’s $1 million addition to children’s mental health services and the Senate’s $2.2 million, the budget negotiators ought to combine them.

    He said Wednesday night he’s won his fellow senators’ backing. Now, he has to try to convince the House.

    ‘We want to help children get services in the community,’ he said.

    Thank you, Senator Hanger, for your leadership! And thanks to all the advocates who have responded to our action alerts this session. Raising your voice for kids really does make a difference. Now let’s hope the House negotiators agree with the Senate.