Children’s Mental Health Services Initiative
San Diego County, California
The goals of the program are the establishment of a governing body (the Heartbeat consortium) made up of equal representation from families and youth, public sector agencies, and the private sector; the integration of children’s mental health services currently being provided across public agencies (e.g., Juvenile Probation, San Diego County Mental Health Services, Education, Alcohol and Drug Services, etc.); the development of strategic alliances of local providers; the establishment and integration of a family organization, Families United, into the system of care to provide advocacy and support services; and the development of an effective evaluation to monitor and measure client outcomes as well as a management information system. Four specific goals for the Initiative are to improve client functioning and client well-being, maintain children in their homes or in least restrictive service settings, reduce juvenile justice recidivism, and maintain school attendance and benefit from education.
At the inception of the program, the primary target population served by the grant was youth returning to the community from the juvenile justice system. The catchment area for the CMHSI is the entire county of San Diego. San Diego County is the second largest county in California with a youth population of approximately 779, 177 in 2001 encompassing a vast diversity of racial and ethnic groups, cultures, and spoken languages. CMHSI provided mental health services to more than 15,025 youth (unduplicated count) in 2000–2001. Respondents reported that this was a 14 percent increase from the previous year and a 34 percent increase from 1997. The children served represent diverse backgrounds including Whites (42 percent), Hispanics (38 percent), African- Americans (18 percent), Asian and Pacific Islanders and Native Americans (less than 5 percent), and Other (4 percent). During 02-03, the Initiative has served 298 children and families.