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DHS news release

March 24, 2008

General contact: Ken Palke, 503-947-5286
Program contacts: Bill Bouska, 503-945-9717

National center lauds DHS for improving kids' mental health care

More children in the state are receiving mental health care because of changes that were initiated several years ago by the Oregon Department of Human Services, according to the National Center for Children in Poverty, which calls the changes "innovative."

The center's recent report "Towards Better Behavioral Health for Children, Youth and Their Families" praised the DHS Addictions and Mental Health Division for making improvements to the children's mental health system.

Oregon is among 24 states commended in the report for initiatives that focus on "bringing a primary prevention and early intervention framework into the mainstream of health and behavioral health financing."

As a result of the changes, children's use of Oregon community-based mental health services has increased over the last two years, while use of psychiatric residential treatment and acute care services has decreased. Family participation in treatment decisions and their satisfaction levels are up.

Oregon mental health programs served approximately 13,000 youngsters each quarter during the first half of 2007, up 11.2 percent from an average 11,550 per quarter during 2005.

"Oregon is being recognized for taking steps to ensure that children who need mental health treatment receive it early when it is most effective," said Bob Nikkel, DHS assistant director for addictions and mental health. "And these improvements allow for the family to have more of a voice in all levels of care."

Under a directive from the 2003 Legislature, DHS staff and stakeholders developed the Children's System Change Initiative (CSCI) to increase the availability and quality of children's mental health care. In October 2005 children's behavioral health services were fully integrated into mental health organizations operating under the Oregon Health Plan.

"A key CSCI goal was to improve children's treatment services at the local clinical level, by using evidence-based practices and enhancing our ability to track financial resources and outcomes," said Bill Bouska, AMH child and adolescent mental health services manager.

State administrative rules were rewritten to put needed clinical procedures and systems in place to coordinate care and ensure the availability of children's mental health services in each community.

The success of CSCI is based on changes made in the role of family members, the location of services, and type of services provided, Bouska said.


"Data and information we are receiving demonstrate that these three areas have changed significantly," he explained. "Change has been difficult at times for providers, communities and families, but everyone is committed to the goal of keeping children at home, in school and out of trouble."

Other positive points listed in a DHS evaluation report of the state's mental health system include:

  • An increase in mental health organization enrollment of children;
  • New services being developed across the state;
  • More parents who are satisfied with coordination among mental health services, family participation in treatment, and outpatient treatment programs; and
  • More parents who believe that youth entry into treatment leads to improved school attendance, less chance of suspension or expulsion from school, and a reduction in the likelihood of arrest by police.