How to improve child mental health services in southern Delaware

Stemming from the Earl Bradley child abuse case, a committee that examined child mental health issues, with a focus on child sexual assault victims, is out with a series of findings and recommendations. 

The panel was formed under a resolution passed by the Delaware General Assembly last summer, shortly after former pediatrician Dr. Earl Bradley was convicted and sentenced to multiple life terms in prison for sexually abusing dozens of his former patients.  The task force heard  from law enforcement agencies, child mental health experts, advocates for children with disabilities, and professionals in social services, law enforcement and education.

The panel’s findings were released Monday.

A deficiency of available services was documented in Sussex County specifically, according to task force chairman Lieutenant Governor Matt Denn.  Additionally, the group addressed concerns such as the training of front line clinicians, the adequacy of case management services, whether health insurance reimbursements were sufficient, and the need to monitor the demand for services on an ongoing basis. 

“There was a desire on the part of study group to monitor the demand for mental health services among children in Kent and Sussex counties going forward so we could carefully keep track of whether there was an increased demand due to victims of Dr. Bradley who had not yet been identified, and adjust services if need be” Denn said. 

The panel’s recommendations included:

-recruit two new child psychiatrists to Sussex County,

-develop new training for mental health professionals focusing on early detection and treatment of trauma,

-secure funding for the Children’s Advocacy center, while designating a case manager for child trauma victims who do not receive treatment through the center,

-review child mental health networks available from the state’s private and public health insurance carriers, to ensure that children do not face unreasonable travel or waiting periods for mental health services.

The existing Child Protection Accountability Commission would also be called upon to monitor the need for mental health services in the lower two-thirds of the state on an ongoing basis.  Also, the panel seeks to make sure that services are available for the region’s growing Spanish-speaking population. 

Denn called the recommendations “targeted, specific and manageable.”

“The result if these recommendations are implemented will be more prompt and effective mental health services for all children in Kent and Sussex counties, and quicker and more effective intervention for children who are the victims of sexual abuse.”

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