June 29, 2004
New Funding Focuses on Children's Mental Health Needs
DHS Commissioner John R. Nicholas said that the project is consistent with the administration’s long-term commitment to ensuring better access to quality health care in Maine. “The goal is to convert the raw data into an informed policy that will help us make better decisions about children’s mental health services,” Nicholas added. “We’re grateful for the support of the Maine Health Access Foundation and pleased to partner with the Maine Children’s Alliance on a project which we believe will significantly improve the lives of our children.”
Current state and national research shows that effective delivery of services is severely hampered by the lack of a common language and a coordinated set of common goals shared by agencies and providers. This situation elevates costs, increases complexity and leads to critical gaps in access to care.
MeHAF Executive Director, Wendy Wolf, noted that the grant is part of a broader initiative at the Foundation to correct these types of problems and improve access to comprehensive, high quality health care. “The Foundation is very interested in promoting data-driven decision making that improve health services for all Maine people and this project is an important step in that effort.”
The project will establish a process for identifying a comprehensive set of children’s mental health indicators and assembling data experts from service agencies. MCA will also be developing strategies for ongoing collection of mental health data within a newly, integrated family services system, and to use this data to produce an annual report on the status of children’s mental health in Maine.
MCA Executive Director Elinor Goldberg noted that oftentimes children do not get the right service at the right time and in the right place. “In Maine, there are many reasons why this happens, everything from the challenges of serving rural populations with high rates of chronic illness and smoking, to decreasing employer-sponsored health care coverage, to inefficiencies in delivery that increase costs. It is critical, in both human and institutional terms,” Goldberg said, “to establish a process to remedy these inefficiencies in the existing mental health care system.”
In Maine, depression and related mood disorders are the most common reason for hospitalization of children 6 years of age and older. According to recent statistics from DHS’ Bureau of Health, approximately 28 percent of Maine children with mental health problems receive treatment, and between 14 and 20 percent of all Maine children have moderate to severe mental health problems that are untreated.
Goldberg expects that the project will help to address these issues. “Getting meaningful information about our children’s mental health is critical to having a delivery system that is effective, efficient, and accountable,” she added. “Because we have created a single, unified child and family services system, we have an extraordinary opportunity to achieve this goal.”
The Maine Health Access Foundation was created in 2000 and is the state’s largest health care foundation. It promotes affordable and timely access to comprehensive, quality health care and seeks to improve the health of all Maine residents, especially those who are uninsured and underserved. The Maine Children’s Alliance is a statewide advocacy organization with a policy agenda focused on improving the lives of children, adolescents, and families in Maine.
For more information about this project, contact the Maine Children’s Alliance at (207) 623-1868 or by email at email@example.com.