Westchester Community Network
Westchester County, New York
The Westchester Community Network received Federal Center for Mental Health Services (CMHS) funding in October 1999 to expand and improve upon the existing system of care for children with severe emotional disturbances and their families. The addition of the CMHS grant funds is intended to assist the county in seeing more children and families through the network model, and to create more interagency blended funding options for purchasing service resources at the community level. The Westchester Community Network service model is driven by the following core principles: Families must be viewed as equal partners and colleagues; Children are best serviced in their own homes, schools, and communities; The supports required by children with severe emotional disturbances should be found in the community; Child-serving systems and agencies must collaborate to create a seamless system; Service must be individualized to meet the needs of each child and family; Service must focus on strengths and competencies rather than on deficiencies; Service and care must be unconditional; Interventions and supports must be available to “wrap services around” the child and family; Service must be culturally competent and respect differences of ethnicity, class, gender, and sexual orientation. The focus of the first year of the grant is to expand the current infrastructure by increasing the Network’s capacity, training all child serving agencies on the system-of-care principles and values, creating family resources centers, creating a purchasing consortium, and evaluating the effectiveness and efficiency of the system design.
The project area for the Westchester Community Network is all of Westchester County, New York. With the exception of New York City, Westchester is the most densely populated county in the State, with an estimated population of 895,000. Mirroring the demographic distribution of the United States as a whole, the six cities of Westchester County have a wide range of urban/rural, socioeconomic, and racial/ethnic diversity. The target population for the Westchester Community Network is all children and adolescents aged 5 to 18 and their families, who live in or return to the county and who meet the criteria for serious emotional disturbance (often defined by the local network). Children who are involved with multiple service systems are given priority for entry into the grant. In response to community concerns, the grant has broadened its focus in the past year to include children under the age of 5, a growing number of whom are in psychiatric care; and those aged 18 to 21, who by regulation lose some of the health service benefits when transitioning to adult services and therefore seem to fall through the cracks. In November 2000, the site was serving approximately 300 children with serious emotional disturbance and their families through the local networks, 140 of whom are receiving intensive case management. Between February 2004 and March 2005, 285 children have been referred for mental health services, of which 212 were eligible to receive services. Respondents also reported that a total of 310 families have participated in the local networks and wraparound meetings.