INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Children with severe mental illnesses will be able to
get state-funded services without going through the courts under a plan
presented Monday by Indiana’s troubled Department of Child Services.
The plan allows families, schools, judges, probation officers and others to
contact community mental health centers to coordinate care for such
children. DCS will roll out the program in the Lawrenceburg area, evaluate
it after two months and then expand it statewide.
DCS acknowledged that some parents who are unable to afford mental health
services for their children have resorted to the juvenile justice system or
by pleading guilty to neglect charges so the children become wards of the
state, which then assumes financial responsibility for their care.
“For decades the only way these children have been able to get care is by
entering the court system as a juvenile delinquent, or to have their parents
claim neglect so the child can become a ward of the state,” DCS chief of
staff John Ryan said in a news release distributed by the agency.
The agency presented the plan to a panel of lawmakers looking at the agency,
which has come under broad criticism by child advocates, legislators and
families on several issues — including its handling of child abuse cases,
the consolidation of child abuse hotline operations, high turnover among
case workers and a decision last week to have an internal committee review
all information before it is released to the public.
The Indiana Court of Appeals recently reversed a neglect conviction against
an Indianapolis woman, ruling she had tried to get help for her daughter.
The Times of Munster and The Indianapolis Star reported earlier this year
that DCS rarely used its power to provide mental health treatment for youths
deemed a danger to themselves or others, and they often ended up in the
juvenile justice system.
DCS said that under the plan, the agency will fund services for children
whose families are not eligible for Medicaid or whose private insurance
won’t cover the costs. DCS says it expects the program to cost $11 million
through next June 30.
“After that, we will need support from the legislature to continue funding
it,” Ryan said. He estimated the annual cost at about $20 million.
The plan was developed in meetings involving representatives of DCS, the
Family and Social Services Administration, community mental health centers,
juvenile court professionals and county prosecutors, DCS said.
DCS chief’s presentation: