DSHS Settles Case Involving Children with Mental Health Needs

By Derek Wang

Washington state has reached a tentative settlement in a class action lawsuit, which could lead to treatment changes for poor kids with mental health needs. In 2009, the state was sued by advocates representing children on Medicaid who have schizophrenia, depression and other mental illnesses. The advocates argued that the Department of Social and Health Services wasn’t providing sufficient home based services to help keep them stable.

Thursday, the different sides reached an agreement to change that. Jane Beyer, Assistant Secretary for DSHS says "“We will have, in place, in the community for the youth and their families, intensive, community based services, so that we can avoid a youth having to placed out of home." She says "Either in foster care or in a hospital setting, or hopefully, what we would be avoiding also, is any kind of involvement with the juvenile justice system.”

Beyer says those community based services include a mobile response team that could respond to a youth in a crisis. For example, if a child was having severe problems coping with anger, a specialist could be called to help, instead of police.

Officials say the new system could serve as many as 6-thousand children and youth each year,
It’s expected to be in place across the state in five years.

The changes are not a done deal. A federal judge needs to approve the settlement. And the state legislature will need to allocate money to pay for it.

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