Having a child with a serious emotional disability can be extremely stressful and lonely for any family. In the past, families had the choice of either allowing their children to be sent to treatment facilities away from home, or attempting to deal with their child’s disability on their own. Eventually, this path often led to families entering into the juvenile justice system as their child’s disability progressed. More recently, the Wyoming Department of Health introduced a new plan for families of children with emotional disabilities. It is called the Children’s Mental Health Waiver.
The Children’s Mental Health Waiver plan includes financial assistance for mental health services, Medicaid services, and a support team for families. The goal of the Children’s Mental Health Waiver is to keep kids in their home community and actively engaged in age appropriate activities, while still addressing the serious mental health needs of the child and the supporting the family. It also aims to keep the children in the school that they would normally attend.
One great opportunity provided by the waiver is training for the unpaid family members that care for the child (such as grandparents, parents, or siblings). This training includes behavioral management, crisis training, and referrals to outside agencies. In addition, providers are available to guide family members through the process of developing a service plan tailored to the individual needs of their child. Family members are also taught to identify when something in the plan is not working, and encouraged to re-evaluate the plan to find something that will be more successful.
While family members will receive training and information, they are not expected to work alone. A child trainer is also part of the waiver plan. The child trainer takes the goals of the mental health plan and puts them to work with the child in the community. For example, the trainer may help the child identify some areas of interest, say in soccer or another recreational activity. Then, he or she would help the child sign up for this activity and work on the skills outlined in the plan during the recreational time. Not only does the child get practice using their new skills in an independent and fun way, but also the time away from home gives unpaid family members a much-needed break.
Finally, the waiver provides a wide range of family coordination services. These include monitoring the child’s health and welfare, locating and arranging youth and family services, overseeing assessments and evaluations, and so on.
This is only a short overview of a few of the services provided by the Children’s Mental Health Waiver. For further information, visit the Wyoming Department of Health website at http://wdh.state.wy.us/mhsa/treatment/waiverindex.html. This waiver can be a great starting point for keeping children with emotional disabilities at home in their communities, where they are best served.