This comprehensive evaluation provides findings from the Casey Foundation’s five-year Mental Health Initiative (MHI) for Urban Children, implemented in the early 1990s. The MHI created innovative ways of delivering culturally appropriate, family-focused mental health services to children in high poverty, urban communities, and worked with states to improve the policies and practices supporting these services. Readers get a feel for what worked through background information, major accomplishments, reform challenges, lessons learned and in-depth case studies.
Focusing on poor urban kids was the right choice in making a system reform difference
Findings & Stats
Approximately 20% of all children have a diagnosable mental disorder with those in poverty less likely to get help.
Restructuring high-level policies would have helped in the overall service strategy at the neighborhood level.
The analysis of the data collection effort found only modest examples of system reform.
Zip Code Woes
A real barrier to change efforts in the neighborhood was the lack of zip codes in client data bases.
The 5-year time frame was too short to make the kinds of changes the Foundation anticipated.
Statements & Quotations
For children living in low income communities, the combination of more acute mental health problems and inadequate services results in disproportionate numbers of them spending time in foster care, special education, psychiatric hospitals and juvenile justice facilities—all at public expense.
An initial lack of trust among partners, and differing visions for the Initiative, slowed down progress and service implementation. Eventually, though, the various governing configurations in the four sites led to increased levels of local control and shared authority with neighborhood residents.
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