Mental health services to youth are strained
UPDATE: Feb. 7 — Colleen Fawcett of Wilton Youth Services reports that after the committee that wrote this report discussed it with First Selectman Lynne Vanderslice, five staff hours weekly have been added to Youth Services. These additional hours, she said, will allow Youth Services staff to better meet the demands of clinical services, program coordination and management, and community outreach.
Original story — With an increased demand for clinical services and strained staff capacity, the ability to meet the mental health needs of Wilton’s youth is getting challenging, according to the Wilton Social Services Commission’s 2016 Mental Health Needs Assessment. The last 10 years have brought an increase in anxiety disorders, depression, self-harm, and illegal substance use and abuse, among the problems presented.
Part of the Social Services Department, Wilton Youth Services tends to the social and emotional developmental needs of Wilton’s youth through a three-pronged approach:
- Clinical services.
- Community outreach.
- Community program coordination and oversight.
For the report, published in September 2016, a commission subcommittee examined the degree to which Wilton Youth Services is able to meet the demands of youth with mental health needs, as well as those in crisis whose families lack adequate resources.
From September 2015 to September 2016, the subcommittee reviewed a range of data, including the 2006 Mental Health Needs Assessment, five years of department data, survey data from public school support staff, and input from Wilton Youth Council leaders, private mental health practitioners and local clergy.
The subcommittee’s review of Wilton Youth Services found that:
- The time devoted to clinical services has increased at the expense of community program coordination and outreach.
- The number of counseling clients has remained relatively steady.
- The clinical time needed by many clients has changed from short-term intervention to longer-term and more complex involvement.
The subcommittee also discovered an increased demand for clinical services — which has left less time for community outreach and program coordination — as well as an increased demand for parent and student groups, program development, vetting, coordination, and community outreach and communication.
Since the 2006 Mental Health Needs Assessment, the subcommittee found that awareness is increasing while stigma is “slowly decreasing.”
It also learned that Wilton Youth Services has been seeing a dramatic increase in anxiety-related disorders, in addition to other problems like depression, self-harm and illegal substance use and abuse.
Another change over the last 10 years has been the unaffordability of private clinician services, with fewer taking insurance and some families having “very high deductibles.”
The subcommittee found that there are:
- Limited local providers that accept insurance through the HUSKY Health Program.
- No more non-profit counseling agencies in Wilton.
- Few clinicians who specialize in children.
- Very few psychiatrists who see children and adolescents.
To help address the need for counseling, according to the report, Wilton Youth Services and Wilton Social Services are seeking a youth clinician who takes HUSKY insurance and is willing to work in a yet-to-be-determined donated space within walking distance from Middlebrook and Wilton High School.
While Youth Services staff members are “exceptional” and “dedicated,” according to the report, staff capacity is insufficient “given the increased and evolving demands to provide effective youth/family clinical services, quality program offerings, and proactive outreach.”
According to the report, Wilton Youth Services has a year-round coordinator who works 27 hours per week and a 15-hour-per-week counselor who doesn’t work during the summer.
With an additional investment of five hours of Wilton Youth Services staff time per week, the report states, Wilton Youth Services would be able to “better support its three-pronged approach,” “fully leverage the efficiency of volunteer work and group strategies,” and provide the Wilton community with “a stronger infrastructure to proactively, effectively and efficiently address youth mental health needs.”
Click here for the full report.