Planning for Children's Mental Health Needs

County and city officials are developing a strategic plan to address the mental health needs of children. A $100,000 grant will fund the plan, with an emphasis on finding creative and entirely new solutions to mental health issues. Houston Public Radio's Laurie Johnson reports.

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Creative, challenging, in-depth, ambitious -- those are all words that were used to describe plans for approaching children's mental health. Harris County and the City of Houston are the recipients of a nearly $100,000 grant from the Hogg Foundation. Harris County Judge Ed Emmett says the most important things done in county government are related to families and children.

"We now live in a world where mental health is getting its due and it's no longer a situation where family members are kind of pushed to the side and we don't talk about that."

Dr. King Davis is the executive director of the Hogg Foundation for Mental Health. He says about 1/3 of all the Foundations grants are automatically allocated to the Houston area, and this grant will serve as a kind of seed money to propel better mental health services.

"It's part of what we've done, part of the challenge for us is to provide for this community a relatively small grant of about $100,000 to really look broadly at the needs of children and adolescents and their families in the city and the county. And to think maybe far more in depth than maybe we have before. More than we did in 1984 when we did something very similar about the long-term needs of children."

The grant was allocated for the Joint City/County Commission on Children. That commission does not provide direct services, but acts in more or a policy-making role. Roy Wooten says they'll use the money in two phases as they develop the strategic plan.

"One is through survey tools where we go visit with consumers -- consumers of mental health services and families of consumers of mental health services. And then secondly through more qualitative data collection in focus groups. Focus groups throughout the major communities, it's a very diverse city and diverse county and so we'll be asking participation in town hall meetings."

Wooten says they'll have the strategic plan developed by March of next year. That's when they'll distribute it to various mental health agencies and adovocacy groups for review and editing. They hope to submit the final plan back to the Hogg Foundation in August of '08 at which point the foundation will decide whether to fund any of the ideas developed in the plan. Laurie Johnson, Houston Public Radio News.

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