Groups work to keep kids in state for counseling

Posted: Thursday, September 15, 2005

ANCHORAGE - Parents and children's advocacy groups are working to bring back hundreds of emotionally disturbed Alaska children who have been shipped outside the state for psychiatric treatment.

About 400 Alaska children and teenagers are Outside in residential psychiatric treatment centers, said Mark Haines-Simeon, policy and planning manager with the state Division of Behavioral Health.

Some children are stuck in Lower 48 treatment centers because their parents do not know how to find treatment in their home community or get their child back in school.

Advocates and parents have helped form a state project called Bring the Kids Home.

The Bring the Kids Home effort this year received a boost of more than $2 million from the Alaska Mental Health Trust Authority for services such as emergency care, individualized services not covered by Medicaid and for three state workers who will help keep kids in Alaska whenever possible. Some $80,000 is going to the Alaska Youth and Family Network to help guide parents, and kids, through the system.

The number of young people sent out-of-state has already dropped as local agencies step up their efforts and the state pushes for more children to be helped in Alaska, Haines-Simeon said. During the 12 months that ended June 30, 676 Alaska children received treatment in Outside residential psychiatric centers through Medicaid. The year before, the number was 749, he said.

State officials say they have worked for the last year and a half on the problem and that they welcome the voices of parents and advocacy groups.

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