Los Angeles County Expands Mental Health Services for Children
The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday approved a $90 million plan to expand mental health services for thousands of foster children and others who are monitored by the child welfare system, the Los Angeles Times reports.
The plan stems from a 2003 legal settlement between the county and children's rights groups that alleged that the county failed to provide foster children with adequate mental health care.
A federal judge in November 2006 ordered the county to screen all children in the foster system and to provide intensive mental health treatment at home to at least 500 more children. The ruling follows the recommendation of an expert panel created as part of the legal settlement.
The new plan significantly expands the number of children who will be screened for mental health problems, according to the Times.
About 25,000 children now live in foster care, and the county's Department of Children and Family Services currently monitors an additional 13,000 who remain in their own homes.
Mental health and child welfare officials on Aug. 7 are scheduled to present a plan to supervisors detailing how the county will pay $33 million to help fund the initiative. Federal and state funding will pay for the remaining costs.
Mental health officials said they expect to fully adopt the plan countywide within the next few years.
However, the union that represents child welfare employees has yet to approve the initiative, which would increase the workload for frontline social workers.
Lawyers who filed the lawsuit said the new initiative did not adequately address how to treat thousands more children who were severely traumatized by abuse, neglect and abandonment.
County officials estimate that about one-third of children entering the welfare system need mental health services.
However, Kimberly Lewis, an attorney for a plaintiff in the lawsuit, said studies indicate that the figure is at least 50%, not one-third (Leonard, Los Angeles Times, 7/18).