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Children's mental health increasing access to services

Many parents encounter difficulties accessing children's mental health care, such as getting an appointment when needed, finding transportation to visits, and lack of child care. (Minnesota Department of Human Services, Disparities and Barriers to Utilization among Minnesota Health Care Program Enrollees, 2009)

The ratio of child and adolescent psychiatrists per 100,000 children for the U.S. is 6.73 compared to Minnesota's ratio of 4.6 per 100,000. Providers from culturally diverse backgrounds and out in the rural areas are even less available. In addition to culture and location, other barriers to access include funding, hours of business and language. Timely access to mental health treatment services, including quality diagnostic assessments, is a problem for meeting the mental health needs of many children and their families.

DHS is committed to reducing disparities and ensuring that children and youth with mental health needs are able to reach and receive the right services at the right time in the right setting. Those services range from prevention and early intervention to intensive intervention and crisis services. Minnesota is a leader in strengthening community-based services to support children in their normal environment and thus avoid more intensive, inpatient services whenever possible.

DHS promotes a variety of approaches to improve access to children's mental health services:
  • Training, recruiting and retaining mental health professionals
  • Expanding the capacity of providers to serve shortage areas through psychiatric consultation and telemental health
  • Partnering with primary care
  • Integrating services with other systems of care to increase the probability of appropriately addressing children's mental health needs
  • Focusing grant funding on serving uninsured, underinsured and underserved children and youth
Prompt access to child and adolescent psychiatry and other mental health treatments can help keep children and youth stable in their community, home and school.
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