“Parents know more about their child than anyone else,” she said of a parent’s role in identifying mental-health concerns in a child. “Are there sudden changes in behavior, idiosyncrasies? Families should be sitting down and talking about issues if they have concerns.
“But it is all right to reach out for help,” Caron said.
Caron or other therapists will have an initial discussion with the parent, child or both and begin to assess what the child’s needs may be.
“We need to begin the planning process, whether a child can benefit from therapy sessions or may need further mental-health referrals,” she said. “We need to assess our goals, what issues need to be addressed.”
Each person needs to be treated individually, as no basic plan for service covers everyone, she added.
“We need to determine if the child is best served here or at another place,” Gillette said. “We are pretty careful that we don’t want to over-diagnose a child and pretty conservative in our approach. We certainly don’t want to label a child.”
Children accessing mental-health services through the county are typically between 5 and 17 years old, though children as young as 3 have also entered the program.
The largest age group is 13- to 17-year-olds, with kids age 10 to 12 representing the second-largest group.
About 47 percent of the
children being served are on medications, as well.
But the region has another option available for children whose problems may become more severe. The CVPH Medical Center’s Inpatient Mental Health Unit has a 12-bed facility for children who need to be admitted for immediate care.
“Our services provide acute stabilization for their mental-health needs,” said Dr. Alisson Richards, staff psychiatrist at CVPH. “These are kids we have concerns about their safety, whether they’re wanting to hurt themselves or someone else.”