Breaking down barriers to mental health care

Children's Mental Health Resource Center helps families navigate path to wellness

One in five children in the United States will experience a mental health or learning disorder, affecting their ability to thrive in school and lead healthy, productive lives. Although mental health disorders are among the most common health issues that today’s young people face, only 20% of children with these disorders receive treatment. Without treatment, they are at a higher risk of using substances and entering the juvenile justice system.

Since 2011, the Children’s Mental Health Resource Center (CMHRC) has been working to ensure more children get the treatment they need. An initiative of the Virginia Treatment Center for Children, CMHRC understands that sometimes the biggest barrier keeping families from health care is not knowing how to maneuver through the system.

“The health care system itself is very complicated, and families are faced with trying to get appointments with providers that have long waiting lists or may not take their insurance. Our goal is to bridge that gap for families,” said Rachel Reynolds, program manager for CMHRC.

The Jenkins Foundation partners with the Children’s Mental Health Resource Center to support their Family Navigator program, which leads families through the twists and turns of the mental health care system.

Through a conversation, family navigators listen to the needs of each family. Then, using the center’s comprehensive database of over 700 Virginia mental health care providers, they connect their young clients to services in their zip code and insurance network, from counseling and psychiatry to in-home services. Family navigators also check in after appointments. If a wait list is too long or if a family isn’t confident with a matched provider, the navigator will find an alternative to meet the child’s needs.

Each family navigator at CMHRC has first-hand experience working through this system for themselves or a family member, and their personal experience makes a difference. In the words of one grandmother who finally found the right services for her grandson: “I can’t tell you how helpful it has been to have someone to talk to that understands.”