Children, Youth & Family Services
Just as vaccinations are important to inoculate against certain diseases, and wellness checks and good nutrition are necessary to ensure physical health in a child, ongoing mental health and substance abuse services in the areas of prevention, early intervention, and treatment are crucial in protecting and developing strong and resilient families and mental wellness in infants, children and adolescents.
Emotional disturbances and substance abuse among children occur at alarming rates. About 10% of Oklahoma youth have a mental health disorder and an additional 10% have a substance abuse issue. According to the U.S. Surgeon General, children are best served by early intervention. Without early and effective identification and interventions, childhood disorders can persist and lead to school failure, poor employment opportunities, poverty and incarceration in adulthood.
Of the many steps that have been taken, one of the most promising is the creation of an interagency team to coordinate care for children and youth at the highest risk of needing acute or residential treatment. Children, Youth and Family Services' goal is to link children and youth with community based services through a local Systems of Care where one is available, and directly with local providers where one is not. The team works across state agency lines to ensure continuity of care, family choice, and adequate resources.
Local Systems of Care need to be in place for every county in Oklahoma. We are about halfway there and working toward 100% coverage within the next six years. Each county needs an available array of services without sending a child or youth away from their own community for treatment. We must continue working until these goals are met for every county in Oklahoma.
To ensure that we meet the mental health and substance abuse needs of children and adolescents, we must strike a balance between education and promotion, prevention, early detection and universal access to care.
This effort will not be easy, but we will be rewarded by the mental health resiliency of Oklahoma's next generation. Addressing the mental health and substance abuse needs of Oklahoma's infants, children and youth is imperative if our state is going to prosper and thrive.