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DHS news release

January 3, 2005

Contact: Jim Sellers (503) 945-5738

Program contact: Ralph Summers (503) 945-7821

Rule filing advances planning for Children's Mental Health Initiative

A new state initiative to improve mental health services for thousands of Oregon children advanced Monday as state officials filed an administrative rule with the Oregon Secretary of State's office.

As a result, the Oregon Department of Human Services (DHS) can now begin certifying providers of intensive community-based children's mental health treatment as well as drafting permanent rules for them and for existing outpatient, day treatment and residential services.

The newly filed rules carry out a directive of the 2003 Oregon Legislature by establishing standards for community-based care alternatives to outpatient, day treatment and residential services.

"Some parents have told us they haven't been involved in decisions about their child's treatment, that treatment too often occurred away from their community, and that sometimes they even felt blamed for the child's problems," Ralph Summers, DHS manager for community treatment systems, said Monday.

"The new model will focus on involving the family more in planning treatment, delivering treatment in non-office community settings where children are likely to be, and improving inter-agency coordination to improve outcomes for children."

Summers said the initiative would also ensure that services are delivered in the child's language and otherwise acknowledge the child's cultural heritage.

Already in the works, the changes were accelerated by the 2003 Oregon Legislature, which directed that substantial change occur by July 1, 2005.

Summers estimated that more than 105,000 Oregon children and adolescents, or about one in eight, require at least moderate mental health services, that 7,350 experience serious mental illness and that more than 3,200 require intensive mental health services described in this administrative rule. He said 29,199 children received services during fiscal 2004.

Although no new money is tied to the changes, Summers said more focus on including families in decisions and delivering more treatment in the child's community is expected to yield better outcomes for kids.

An example of strengthening family involvement is that families, including foster and adoptive parents, will make up at least 51 percent of local and regional advisory panels. Summers said they would receive training to ensure their participation is meaningful.

"Oregon has a network of high-quality treatment facilities for children," Summers said, adding that they and other stakeholders will participate in writing the state's new treatment standards. "Delivering more services locally will enable these facilities to change and expand in creative ways."

He said no new providers are expected to emerge, but that existing providers will presumably seek certification and redeploy staff to meet new community treatment opportunities. Most treatment facilities now are located in Western Oregon, with three-quarters of those located in Willamette Valley counties.