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Budget could force hundreds from state group homes

Posted July 21, 2009

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— State budget cuts could force families with mentally ill children to look for new treatment options because some group homes would no longer be able to accommodate them.

"A lot of families are going to be affected. A lot of children are going to get lost," said Noreen Brewster, whose son, Jackson, and daughter, Nina, have benefited from group home services. "With our daughter, she doesn't understand that a lot of the things she says and does could land her in jail on assault charges."

Lanier Cansler DHHS: Treatment options still available

The state wants to shave $15 million off the cost of operating some group homes – the state would have to forfeit $30 million in federal matching funds – but the cuts would require 400 to 500 mentally ill children to seek another form of treatment.

Many of the youths in the group homes have been referred there from the state's juvenile justice system.

Health and Human Services Secretary Lanier Cansler said that he believes adequate options will be available to all of those affected by the cuts.

"This whole thing with the budget is forcing us to do things better, smarter," Cansler said. "What we're trying to do is (look again) at the system and find the appropriate care, which may not be residential. It's just that residential has been the easiest place to put them over the years."

In the future, some children might get more intensive therapy, while others might be able to return to therapy at home. Once the budget is finalized, officials will have about 90 days to assign youths to other treatment options.

Jackson Brewster is receiving therapy at home, but his mother said a previous stay in a group home saved him and the entire family. She said she hopes her daughter and others get the same chance.

"My concern is that they're going to pay for it one way or the other. They better plan on putting more money into the prison system," Noreen Brewster said.

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  • whatusay Jul 22, 2009

    Even though some government programs are helpful they have still made government grow larger and larger on the backs of tax payers. It seems the time has come when tax payers can't foot the bill any longner, too much government involvement. These helpful programs might survive if our politicians would stop growing government and the entitlements to people who do not need them. Illegals, people on welfre who can work, drug addicts, and special interest groups who are being paid for helping politicians get elected. Government needs to downsize in a big way. It is destroying our system of democracy.

  • stephba Jul 22, 2009

    With all due respect, and as someone who has a child in one of these centers, most families have tried other options and this was a last resort. Intensive in-home, yes we tried that. We tried a LOT of things that are already available and nothing worked. Putting a child in one of these facilities is scary and overwhelming and is often the ONLY option left for the safety of the child, family and even the community. My husband and I are well-educated and sought every ounce of help available (including out of state) and we still were unable to help our son. Taking care of our son's mental health became my full-time job (literally) and I am more informed now than most social workers and community support workers and still we couldnt help him. I am sure it is true for a few cases that other resources might be helpful, but unless you have parented a child who is anti-social, you can not begin to understand.

  • jnrobrien Jul 21, 2009

    I think all of these things would help gammasandi, but not in all cases. For some children, these levels of care are critical. These are the group homes that are utilized mostly by mentally ill children. There is no way their home could ever provide the kind of care they receive in the level 3's and 4's. I am not sure if you are aware of the differences or not, but the numbers mean different levels of care with 3 and 4 being the highest outside of institutions. The level 4's are locked facilities with round the clock care and the level 3's are unlocked with round the clock (awake) staff. Yes, there are some out there that are not beneficial, but there are some that could change the outcome of some of these kids futures. I know I am not willing to sit back and watch these kids lose any chance of success in their futures. I can't believe we are even having to discuss this. Makes me so sad to even think of the outcome of this cut....

  • gammasandi Jul 21, 2009

    Perhaps more services to teach parents the necessary skills to benefit from intensive in-home therapy is the answer because at some point, the children return to their families. What about a pilot program for fostering the whole family rather than just the child? Some group homes are very effective in teaching social skills and others, sadly, are not much more than babysitters. These observations were made over years of working in juvenile justice and the mental health system. In many cases,the family systems need the majority of work. Many parents are tired, guilt-ridden because they cannot "fix" the problem, and, yes there are some who do not care to work for a solution. But we can try to reach out to family and friends who need a little help from the "village" in rearing their children.

  • readerman Jul 21, 2009

    Colliedave makes a good point. We need to focus what is most importnat. I would, however disagree with calling government a business. A business can compete, fail and go under with little effect on the entire state. State government, on the other hand is required, regardless of some people's opinions to the contrary.

  • colliedave Jul 21, 2009

    Running a business requires hard decisions. Which is more essential, these group homes or art museums?