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01-10-2012 | Original Paper | Uitgave 5/2012

Journal of Child and Family Studies 5/2012

Gaps and Barriers in Services for Children in State Mental Health Plans

Journal of Child and Family Studies > Uitgave 5/2012
Sara R. Gould, Sarah E. Beals-Erickson, Michael C. Roberts


Significant gaps exist in children’s mental healthcare, and barriers prevent access to existing services. Current federal initiatives call for state governmental agencies to recognize and resolve deficits in their systems of care. Previous work has acknowledged some of the problems in meeting the mental health needs of children within a system of care. This current project sought to discriminate between gaps (e.g., non-existent services) and barriers (e.g., problems that prevent access to existing services) within state mental health care plans. Because acknowledging barriers and gaps in mental health services is a step towards systems improvement, the present project describes how state governments recognize the limits of their children’s mental health care systems. We analyzed state mental health plans submitted to the federal government in applications for block grant funds. Results illustrate that a varied number of gaps and barriers are acknowledged in state plans. Overall, 90% of state plans discussed barriers and 84% of state plans discussed service gaps. The gap most frequently recognized was lack of providers (74%), while lack of funding (52%) was the most common barrier. This project points to some recognition of system limits in the states and reflects potential efforts to create policies for system improvement for children and families.

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