Saturday, March 22, 2008

Guest Spot: Why I support changes in the Rosie D. case

Dear Health and Human Services:

I support new reforms for the children's mental health in the Commonwealth. The system is broken on how mental health services are delivered and paid for. It was only a matter of time until a lawsuit was filed by parents to advocate for improved mental health services for their children known as the Rosie D vs Romney case. As an independent advocate and mental health professional, I was appalled how parents had to take their kids to the local emergency rooms to get evaluated for mental health services when in fact some of the services that did not involve immediate medical treatments ( for example, life threatening situations) and stablization could have been done at outpatient clinics.

I support more intensive care management and family stabilization services to be conducted on the outpatient level and be in place from six months to a year for some families that are in danger of having their children taken away. Staff needs to be trained on how to interact and to counsel children who are dual diagnosed with psychiatric and physical disabilities.

I further advocate that parents be held accountable for some of their children's mental health issues. It is found after some investigations by the Department of Social Services that parents have their own mental health issues that need immediate attention. I don't understand why these parents are not pre-screened by their doctors before the leave the hospitals with their babies. The system is reactive, and after the fact, as damage is done to these children. Possibly a proactive measure would be to implement pre-screening tools for pregnant mothers and fathers to determine if they are capable of taking care of their children's phyiscal and mental health needs. If adoptive parents have to go through the same measures, then these parents need to go through the same thing as well.

Regarding the infrastructure, the mechanisms to pay providers, particularly social workers and mental health counselors are unfair and inequitable. There are some counselors across the state who are making the same money as their clients on SSI with children. It is demoralizing to hear my colleagues vent about they are not paid for no-shows and how difficult it is to make a sustainable living with a masters degree and/or advanced degree in their field. It is utmost important that the commonwealth change the way they pay mental health clinicians for their work. It is agreed as a consensus that there is a shortage of qualified mental health clinicians, and changing the infrastructure and values on how clinicians are paid for their work will decrease the shortage and children with mental health needs will be served.

Robbin Miller

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