Harris County Gets Mental Health Services to Children and Families

The Harris County area has a new system for getting mental health services to children and their families. A $9.5 million federal grant will support the Harris County Systems of Hope. Houston Public Radio's Capella Tucker reports.

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The program will be made up of a handful of teams including Depelchin Children's Center, Harris County Juvenile Probation Department and the Mental Health and Mental Retardation Authority. Systems of Hope Project Director Patty Tremble says they'll be concentrating on children ages six to 16.

"You're really catching some big mile-stone ages. Those elementary school ages, those times when you are getting into elementary school, those kids getting into middle school and those kids getting in high school. As those transitions occur in children's lives, you often see these problems emerge."

One unique part of the program is that it brings in parents of children with mental illness to work with other parents. Jane Georgiou's son has bi-polar disorder. It started with learning disabilities. Georgiou says things got worse for her son when he switched schools.

"We had been to psychiatrist, to psychiatrist, to psychiatrist and nothing productive. And of all things, my mail man realized because he saw ambulances, ambulance, ambulances at my home, he said you need help and he handed me a card: Systems of Hope. I thought we don't qualify we're not in this bracket. He rang my bell and said you do need help."

That was eight months ago. Georgiou is not only getting treatment for her son, but is now helping others. Officials say another goal of the program is to streamline the paperwork involved in order to provide more face to face help for families. It's estimated that about 186,000 children in Harris County have mental illness. 10,000 of the 16,000 children in juvenile probation department are diagnosed with mental illnesses. Capella Tucker, Houston Public Radio News.

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