Long Wait for Mental Health Services for Youth in Nation’s Capital

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Katy McCarthy / JJIE

A Children’s Law Center report released last week finds that young people in Washington, D.C. are not receiving speedy assistance from the District’s mental health services. According to the report, about 75 percent of young people living in the nation’s txcapital who are referred to mental health service providers, do not receive treatments within a legally-stipulated one-week period.

Furthermore, the report found that nearly half of the District’s young people with mental health needs had to wait several weeks before receiving aid, with some waiting an entire month to obtain assistance.

More than 3,000 children in the nation’s capital were referred to mental health service providers over a timeframe that included all of the 2011 FY and the beginning of the 2012 FY, the authors of the report state.

Although Mental Health Rehabilitation Services regulations require children be seen by a mental health service provider within seven business days of being referred, the report found that an estimated 1,524 young people in the District had to wait anywhere from a week to a month before getting help.

“Despite many improvements this past year, D.C. children still have a paucity of quality mental health services to assist them as they struggle to address problems in their families, schools and community,” Children’s Law Center Executive Director Judith Sandalow is quoted in a recent press release. “The District needs to move from making plans to taking action.”

Continuing, Sandalow said that the poor outcomes could be attributed to both a dearth of mental health providers in the area and too much governmental bureaucracy.

"It is a Byzantine labyrinth of paperwork to provide mental health services to children in the District,” she is quoted by The Washington Examiner. “And many mental health providers tell us they'll practice in Maryland and Virginia because of the complexity.”

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