There is no doubt in my mind, that the public mental health and education systems are underfunded and crisis-driven, rather than prevention-driven. Consequently, our children and youth are falling through the cracks, as they and their caregivers are left navigating through a path filled with darkness, from the pain of being failed by a system that is supposed to be supportive.
Many kids today, face interrelated academic, behavioral, mental health and or Substance abuse problems; that with out the appropriate supports, become quit severe over the last several years and potentially last a life time. It is clear to me, that mental health wellness for children and youth, is not a public health priority, in that more often than not, one finds that they have to fight to get the most basic services for their children.
There is no doubt in my mind that the public mental health and education systems are underfunded and reactive crisis-drive, rather than prevention/intervention-driven. However, it feels logical to me that to implement an early intervention and prevention policy, in the long run will cost less money, reducing the unnecessary costs to the other systems of care for youth.
It is my hope that with my Testimony, I will appeal to your compassion and ignite an awareness that our current policies are not practical. As I describe how barriers caused by educational and mental health policy oversight, prevented timely accesses to care, the failure to identify both of my children under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and Child Find program; failure to meet the needs my children, who have emotional and behavioral disorders— that you will hear my call for the need to stand up and speak out and fight for change.
On September 21, 2011 I was faced with the heart aching decision to relinquish custody of my 17 year old son a singular and primary goal of getting access to treatment for his mental health care needs. The failure of addressing my children’s needs by all child serving agencies, but more specifically failure in addressing these need by the mental health and education agencies in my county, is reprehensible. These agencies all share the primary responsibility in addressing all children's needs before they reach a crisis. This failure to provide these services in a timely manner is the most pertinent obstacle that has pushed me into giving up custody of my son.
The two core factors for relinquishing custody of my son are: the lack of access to appropriate and timely mental health services/supports in both the public and private sectors and a lack of oversight for existing programs that should be providing these services and supports.
Despite my early requests for intervention for access to programs designed to optimize the opportunity to intervene early and prevent continued delinquency and drug abuse, provide mental health supports, behavioral supports (intensive i.e BIP specialist) in the academic setting, the needs of my children have been continuously ignored or rebutted with an explanation associated with severe lack of funding, or that the types of programs, services I required do not exist.
Based on my experience as a mother raising 2 sons that suffer from emotional and behavioral disorders, I feel there is a great opportunity for improving educational outcomes and post school outcomes for students within the scope of Special Educational Services and mental health services. It has taken a VERY long time to get the services I need for my boys and a lot of pain and heartache for my entire family.