Special to The Dallas Examiner
AUSTIN – The Texas Health and Human Services Commission and Texas Department of Family and Protective Services will help more children and youth receive mental health residential treatment services and remain in the custody of their parents or guardians through an increase in availability of residential treatment center beds.
“Supporting families and connecting children with intensive mental health services is at the heart of what this program is about,” said Trina Ita, HHSC associate commissioner of Behavioral Health Services. “This additional funding will expand access to mental health care for Texas youth and help keep families together.”
With an additional $2.5 million from the 86th Texas Legislature and the governor, HHSC can increase the number of beds at residential treatment centers for children and youth with severe emotional disturbance. The increase brings the number available statewide to 50, up from 40.
“The investments we make in mental health services are critical to ensuring positive outcomes for Texas children,” said Sen. Jane Nelson. “As chair of Senate Finance, I am encouraged the Legislature’s $2.5 million investment this session is helping more Texas children access the mental health services they need to lead healthy lives.”
A collaboration between HHSC and DFPS, the Children’s Mental Health Residential Treatment Center Relinquishment Avoidance Project, will help parents maintain custody of their children in their effort to receive needed treatment services.
The project, established in 2013, has been a successful alternative to parents legally relinquishing custody of their children to Child Protective Services. It provides care to children and youth with severe emotional disturbance who need intensive residential treatment services without placing them in foster care. This has helped keep child with their family due to the improvement of family relationships and ability of the caregiver to support and care for their child.
Increasing RTC bed availability is a key goal of the agency’s strategy to help people access behavioral health services, as outlined in HHS’ business plan, Blueprint for a Healthy Texas. HHS anticipates serving an additional 19 children and adolescents in FY 2020. The RTCRA Project served 31 children and youth in FY 2019.
Children and youth receive room and board; intensive mental health services that include group, individual and family therapy; and educational and recreational activities. Meanwhile, parents or guardians receive family case management, family partner services and skills training from their local mental health authority.
“This is a terrific program, and will get these children, from very young to teenagers, the kind of help they need,” said Kristene Blackstone, associate commissioner for Child Protective Services at DFPS. “It also eliminates the stress on parents that comes with being involved with CPS and the courts. That worry is no longer there.”
The project not only helps families stay together but also reduces the need for DFPS to add more children and youth into the foster care system.
The RTCRA Project has successfully provided children and youth the mental health services they need and reunited them with their families. In state fiscal year 2018, 96.8 percent of the children who received care under the project remained in the custody of their families. Since 2016, the state has served 170 children and youth.