There is a crisis in the mental health care system in the United States. Children with mental illnesses endure long waiting lists in order to gain access to short-term, fragmented, and inappropriate services instead of receiving longterm, individualized, and coordinated medical care. Inadequate care affects many aspects of a child’s life. A child with an untreated mental health disorder may endure unnecessary time in a hospital, delay in accessing medical treatment, misdiagnoses, difficulty in school, or removal from his family.
Children with serious emotional disturbances (SED) are particularly vulnerable to the problems in the mental health care system because a child with SED may require many different types of treatment throughout the different stages of his illness. During an emergency crisis, a child may need intensive inpatient treatment; however, when the child is no longer in an emergency situation, community-based or outpatient programs may be more appropriate. After receiving the appropriate treatment in the hospital, a child often becomes “stuck” in the hospital because appropriate outpatient programs are unavailable. The required services are frequently unavailable when the patient needs them, and children are hospitalized or institutionalized longer than necessary. . . .