Mental Health Services for Children and Teens: A Community Approach

In an effort to more effectively provide mental health services for children and teens, funds were provided to create The Comprehensive Community Mental Health Services for Children and Their Families Program, also known as the Children’s Mental Health Initiative (CMHI)--a cooperative agreement program administered by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) in the Department of Health and Human Services.
The CMHI helps promote the coordination of the multiple and often fragmented systems that serve children and youth from birth to age 21 diagnosed with a serious emotional disturbance and their families.
SAMHSA’s report, “The Comprehensive Community Mental Health Services for Children and Their Families Program, Evaluation Findings” found encouraging results, including self-reported anxiety symptoms decreasing for 24.2 percent of youth from intake to 12 months, and for 30.2 percent of youth from intake to 24 months.
The system of care philosophy revolves around the following eight principles that state services should be:

  1. Family driven
  2. Based on service plans that are individualized, strengths based, and evidence informed
  3. Youth guided
  4. Culturally and linguistically competent
  5. Provided in the least restrictive environment possible
  6. Community based
  7. Accessible
  8. Collaborative and coordinated through an interagency network

Additional encouraging results include youths’ self-reported symptoms of depression improved over time. At 12 months, 16.5 percent of youth experienced improved depressive symptoms, and 23.6 percent experienced improvement at 24 months. About one-third of youth had thought about suicide in the 6 months before entering system of care services. Only about 14 percent reported thoughts of suicide from 18 to 24 months after service intake.
The full report is available for free at

juvenile-justice-system_David-BackesDavid Backes writes the Friday news roundup for Reclaiming Futures and contributes articles about juvenile justice reform and adolescent substance abuse treatment to He has a bachelor’s degree in sociology from Santa Clara University. David works as an account executive for Prichard Communications.

Updated: January 10 2013