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Children’s Law Center Launches Plan to Reform the District’s Children’s Mental Health System

May 8, 2012

WASHINGTON, DC (May 8, 2012) – Children’s Law Center issues a blueprint for change in the District’s children’s mental health system with a plan being released tomorrow. Based on comparisons to national statistics, there are at least 5,000 children in DC who do not receive the mental health treatment they need. “Every one of our lawyers has young clients who struggle because they cannot get the right services in the current system,” CLC executive director Judith Sandalow said.

Despite important gains in recent years, structural changes are necessary for meaningful improvement in meeting the needs of DC’s children and families. CLC’s plan seizes on local momentum to achieve real reform that goes beyond piecemeal progress.

“Children’s mental health is a priority for the DC government,” Deputy Mayor for Health and Human Services Beatriz “BB” Otero said. “Earlier this year, Mayor Gray and our administration responsibly exited the Dixon lawsuit and we remain committed to ensuring that the mental health needs of District residents, especially the children, are met.”

CLC’s plan draws from the organization’s extensive experience working with the mental health systems as advocates and attorneys. The plan includes 32 specific, practical recommendations – including ways to improve access to care and expand community-based services.

“Our doctors know that access to quality mental and behavioral health services can make a tremendous difference in children’s lives,” Kurt Newman, MD, President and CEO of Children’s National Medical Center, said. “Just like physical injuries, mental and behavioral health concerns get worse without the right treatment. But with the right mental health care, children can succeed at home, in school and in the community.”

Improving the system is critically important. The cost to society of unmet mental health needs is substantial; beyond the personal suffering of children and families, the price is paid in special education, foster care, juvenile justice and other social services.

“With the health and safety of our children and our community at stake, we need the leaders of the District to come together to turn our vision of a truly functioning children’s mental health system into reality,” Sandalow said.

CLC will release its plan, Improving the Children’s Mental Health System in the District of Columbia, on Children’s Mental Health Awareness Day, Wednesday, May 9, at Children’s National Medical Center’s Sheikh Zayed Campus.

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About Children’s Law Center
Children’s Law Center works to give every child in the District of Columbia a solid foundation of family, health and education. We are the largest provider of free legal services in the District and the only to focus on children. Our 80-person staff partners with local pro bono attorneys to serve more than 2,000 at-risk children each year. We use this expertise to advocate for changes in the District’s laws, policies and programs. Learn more at www.childrenslawcenter.org.


Media Contact: Meghan Williams, 202-467-4900, ext. 512

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“Children's Law Center is our best organizational partner and we turn to them often for legal guidance and support. When I think of CLC I think of their unique expertise and extensive knowledge, their generosity in sharing that knowledge with our community, and their integrity in conducting this important work. The lives of the children and families they serve are significantly improved because CLC exists.”
-Margie Chalofsky,
Executive Director,
Foster & Adoptive Parent Advocacy Center (FAPAC) 

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