Our History

History of the Movement

Early Days of CASSP

1982 – In 1982, Jane Knitzer released her now famous study showing that two-thirds of all children with severe emotional disturbances were not receiving appropriate services. Children were “unclaimed” by the public agencies serving them and there was little coordination among the various child-serving systems. States were  slow to develop children’s units and all were seriously understaffed.

1983 – Then in 1983 The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) initiated CASSP by providing:

  •  Funds and technical assistance to the states
  •  The first “formal” recognition that children were involved in multiple public systems: education, child welfare, juvenile justice, substance abuse and mental healthAn interesting footnote is that the CASSP Program was based on successful  demonstration Community Health Programs funded by NIMH beginning in 1977 serving adults

1984 – In 1984 the U.S. Congress appropriated the first CASSP funds. Only 10 states received funding but interest was high as  43 states and 1 territory had responded to the announcement. By 1992 every state had at least 1 CASSP grant.

1986 – Congress passed the State Comprehensive  Mental Health Services Plan Act:  To develop community based services for adults and children.

  • Reinforced: movement from institutional care to community based systems of care
  • Integrated mental and physical health, substance abuse, juvenile justice, education and social services for children with serious emotional disturbances
  • First published definition of the term “System of Care” 
    “a comprehensive spectrum of mental health and other necessary services which are organized into a coordinated network to meet the multiple and changing needs of children and their families.”
      – Stroul and Friedman

Comprehensive Mental Health Initiative and SAMHSA arrive on the scene

1992 – In 1992 legislation was passed that initiated the Substance Abuse Mental Health Services Administration or SAMHSA as an agency. That same legislation mandated the Children’s Mental Health Initiative (CMHI).

1993 – In 1993 funding of communities began with four sites and an annual budget of $4.5 million dollars. In fiscal year 2009 the budget for this program was $114 million.

Moving forward…

Since 1993 the Federal government has spent a cumulative amount of over $1.38 billion dollars on finding ways to improve services for children and families. Countless providers, administrators, families and youth have been a part of this effort. The wisdom and knowledge of alumni of the CMHI movement finds its home here.

Originally incorporated as the Alumni Network for Systems of Care, our intent was to create a nation-wide venue to share information, network with colleagues, and identify ways to promote system of care development efforts post- federal funding. The Alumni Network Web site offered a virtual “meeting place” where alumni of system of care development efforts could come together to strengthen the understanding of what it takes to be family driven and youth guided through education, training and networking.

Under the leadership of Scott Bryant-Comstock, an alumnus from North Carolina System of Care development efforts, and a core group of dedicated alums from other parts of the country, the Alumni Network has evolved into the Children’s Mental Health Network. The Children’s Mental Health Network has preserved the original intent to collaborate and network nationally while adding more formal advocacy and mentoring programs to its offerings.

Note: The Children’s Mental Health Network ceased operation in December, 2023. This archived website is available for you to peruse past articles and our vast library of research articles and news sources on children’s mental health, dating back to 2012.