Idaho lawmakers are considering a set of rule changes that would strengthen a community approach to the state’s mental health treatment for children.
The Post Register reports that the rule changes would allow Idaho to continue implementing the Jeff D. lawsuit settlement. The nearly four-decade-old class-action lawsuit against the state said Idaho provided substandard care to children with mental illnesses. An agreement reached in 2015 required the state to put more emphasis on community-based options rather than institutionalization.
The House Health and Welfare Committee approved the rule changes on Thursday. Two lawmakers voted against the proposal.
Mental health program specialist Stephanie Hoffman said the proposed rule changes allow the Department of Health and Welfare to develop individualized treatment plans for children along with their families, as well as to provide options for “alternative placement” in foster homes, group homes or treatment facilities in certain cases.
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“An individual treatment plan describes the specific strengths, needs and goals that are unique to the individual child and his or her family,” Hoffman said.
The rules raised some dissent from Rep. John VanderWoude, R-Nampa, and Rep. Karey Hanks, R-St. Anthony.
VanderWoude questioned portions of the rules that deal with cases where parents won’t agree to sign the treatment plan devised by the department.
Behavioral Health Administrator Ross Edmunds said there are two kinds of cases where parents refuse to sign such plans. If the children’s family has come forward to voluntarily seek mental health services, but then refuses to sign the treatment plan, the case is generally closed. If the treatment has been ordered by the courts, then the department informs the judge that the parents won’t consent to treatment, and the judge can order the department to go forward with treatment anyway.
“We do everything we can to work with the family voluntarily,” Edmunds said.