In an effort to address what he calls "the nation's public crisis in mental health for children and adolescents," U.S. Surgeon General David Satcher, MD, PhD, released in January "The Surgeon General's Conference On Children's Mental Health: A National Action Agenda." Many APA members, along with APA staff, worked closely with the National Institute of Mental Health and the Surgeon General's Office in planning the conference and the report that followed.
The agenda calls for bringing public attention to children's mental health needs, combating the stigma surrounding mental illness, and improving the evaluation and identification of children's mental health needs.
"We must educate all persons who are involved in the care of children on how to identify early indicators for potential mental health problems," Satcher said, upon releasing the report. "This begins with families. We need to help families understand that these problems are real, that they can often be prevented and that effective treatments are available."
Satcher also recommends the integration of practice and science as a vital component of comprehensive mental health care for children and their families.
"We need to better educate frontline providers to recognize mental health issues [and] we need to train health-care providers in scientifically proven, state-of-the-art approaches of assessment, treatment and prevention," he explains.
To investigate ways psychology can implement the Surgeon General's national agenda, APA's Board of Directors established a Working Group on Children's Mental Health. The group asserts that appropriate and adequate mental health care for all children needs to be a recognized and sanctioned aspect of primary health care.
The working group has identified the need to:
Heighten public awareness about children's mental health.
Improve the financial infrastructure to address funding and parity issues.
Expand access to and coordination of quality mental health services.
Monitor access and coordination of quality mental health-care services.
Train providers about child development and mental health.
Long-term plans are still under development, but in the short-term the working group will be compiling and disseminating information about child mental health programs to be presented at APA's 2001 Annual Convention in San Francisco, Aug. 2428.