The Herald Bulletin

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Local News

May 6, 2013

DCS pilot program closes mental health gap

INDIANAPOLIS — More than two dozen Indiana children who might once have entered the court system as a way to receive mental health services are now receiving help through a pilot program.

The Department of Child Services started the program in 11 counties — Elkhart, St. Joseph, Dearborn, Ohio, Switzerland, Franklin, Decatur, Ripley, Boone, Hamilton and Madison — to help children in need of mental health assistance who weren’t eligible for Medicaid and lacked private insurance.

Annette Craycraft, executive director at East Central Indiana Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA), Inc., said she’s aware of a partnership between DCS and Aspire Indiana that helps provide services not typically available to kids with needs, but hadn’t heard about the pilot program spreading to other counties.

“I think it’ll provide good services for children slipping through the cracks,” she said.

Unfortunately, she added, some of those children with mental illnesses or developmental disabilities in Madison County end up in the court system or juvenile correction system without receiving the help they really need.

Aspire could not be reached for comment by press time.  

DCS’ program was launched after an investigation last year by The Times in Munster found that children with severe mental illnesses or developmental disabilities weren’t receiving services. Many instead were entering the court system as juvenile delinquents or children in need of services.

Advocates hailed the pilot program, which currently serves 25 children.

Joshua Sprunger, executive director of the National Alliance on Mental Illness Indiana, called the program a “big step in the right direction.” But he cautioned that there still is a treatment gap for many children.

Under the program, families of children who meet the level of need and are eligible for Medicaid are referred to the Division of Mental Health and Addiction. DCS pays for services for children whose families aren’t eligible for Medicaid, or whose private insurance won’t cover the cost.

Seventy-five children have been referred. Some are still moving through the process or were found ineligible because they received services from other agencies, said Lisa Rich, DCS deputy director of services and outcomes.

Rich said the program will continue to roll out statewide in 2013.

Herald Bulletin staff reporter Dani Palmer contributed to this Associated Press story.

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