Sussex, Kent lack mental health services

Task force to report March 14 on improving access to assistance
November 9, 2011

The Earl Bradley child sexual abuse case shocked the Cape Region and has prompted an assessment of services available to meet the ongoing needs of Bradley's victims and of all those who suffer abuse.

After taking inventory of the number of professionals available to provide these services, state officials found Kent County and especially Sussex County do not have enough trained professionals to serve Bradley's victims and their families.

Charged with finding a solution is a House task force chaired by Lt. Gov. Matt Denn. Denn said the committee is studying what is needed to meet the mental health needs of children in Kent and Sussex. It's also working to come up with ways to ensure more trained mental health professionals, such as psychiatrists, counselors, social workers and psychologists, are available to the people of Kent and Sussex counties.

The task force has a March 14 deadline to deliver a report on its findings to the General Assembly.

According to data provided by Susan Cycyk, director of the state Division of Prevention and Behavioral Health Services, Sussex County has a ratio is 27,000 people for every one psychiatrist, and nearly 2,800 people for every core mental health professional.

Cycyk’s data shows the minimum ratio should be 20,000 people for every psychiatrist and 6,000 people for every core mental health professional.

At the task force’s second meeting, Oct. 26, Dr. Chuck Webb, director of evidence-based practices for the Division of Prevention and Behavioral Health Services, presented a $109,000 proposal to put more mental health professionals in Kent and Sussex. The proposal involves a three-tier approach.

• Training clinicians in Kent and Sussex in child and family traumatic stress intervention

• Hiring or contracting a full-time clinical liaison for children exposed to trauma

• Engaging university faculty and students in the evaluation and dissemination of the intervention process.

Breaking down the approach

The child and family traumatic stress intervention is a four-to-six session intervention designed for children who have suffered traumatic stress but who have not been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder. The intervention is used to evaluate symptoms and talk about the child’s well-being in order to prevent post-traumatic stress disorder.

Webb proposed a two-phase approach. First, evaluation teams from University of Pennsylvania and University of Delaware will train a group of 20 to 30 clinicians. After the test training is complete, the Penn team will return to lead a second training of more than 200 mental health clinicians.

Webb said the primary purpose of the full-time case workers would be to serve as a liaison between families referred for treatment by the Child Advocacy Center and mental health professionals in the community.

The liaison would be given a caseload of at least 20 families.

Besides helping to implement interventions, the Penn and UD teams would evaluate the process to measure its effectiveness.

Webb’s proposal would take a year to fully implement.

“I want to see every kid who is in need of mental health services receive those services in a timely way. That’s our ultimate goal, to figure out what has to be done in order to make that happen,” Denn said.

Task force member Sen. George Bunting, D-Milford, said, ‘We’re trying to focus just on Kent and Sussex counties and trying to provide more mental health assistance down here. Hopefully we can see a path forward. I really think there is some good that will come out of this. I’ve always felt out of bad times comes good.”