Hundreds of mental health providers, child advocates, and government policy makers gathered recently to learn about nationally recognized treatment services shown to improve the mental well being of youth and their families.
Sponsored by the Department of Mental Health, the September 28 conference promoted community based treatments called “evidence-based programs” as more effective alternatives to out of home residential treatment facilities. Hundred of District youth are benefiting from these services provided through the Department of Mental Health. The conference was held to promote these therapeutic practices that improve functioning in the home, school or community and to encourage referrals of youth who could benefit.
Evidence-based programs include treatment for parents and youth children who experience violence and trauma, therapy that focuses on improving the quality of the parent-child relationship, and psychotherapy that addresses the unique needs of children with depression, behavior problems and other difficulties related to traumatic life experiences. Two years ago, just five mental health clinicians were trained to deliver only one evidence-based practice. Today, more than 80 clinicians deliver a number of evidence-based services at community mental health clinics. The Department of Mental Health also has increased the number of children who can enroll in these special services to nearly 1,000.
“We know that these services make a difference in the lives of children and their families,” said Stephen T. Baron, Director of the Department of Mental Health. “We want to make sure that child serving organizations, Family Court and the police department know that they are available and can make referrals when appropriate.”
The conference keynote speakers were Karl Dennis, international child welfare advocate and former executive director of Kaleidoscope, Inc., a community-based childcare agency in Chicago, and Karen A. Blase, Ph.D., a senior scientist at the Frank Porter Graham Child Development Institute University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, NC.
The Department of Mental Health provides a range of services for children and youth including a 24/7 emergency mobile service for children experiencing an emotional or psychiatric crisis at home, in school or in the community. The Department also works closely with the District Child and Family Services Agency to meet the mental health needs of children in the child welfare system. For referral to services call 1-888-793-4357 or for more information, go to www.dmh.dc.gov.