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Seeking Interwoven Services
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Systems of Care (SOC) is a philosophy that involves collaboration across government and private agencies, providers, and families to improve access and to expand the array of coordinated community-based services and supports for children with serious emotional disturbance. Author Brian Prioleau interviewed Sherri Hammack to learn about a project expansion utilizing SAMHSA grant funding.
Seeking Interwoven Services

Sherri Hammack, project director for Texas Systems of Care (TxSOC), is certain the $4 million, four-year grant SAMHSA awarded the state will be spent efficiently and effectively. She said, “We have built a strong foundation in Texas of interagency collaboration for kids’ mental health.” This foundation will allow dedicated TxSOC staff to break down service "silos." The grant also provides seed money to communities to create collaborative relations between agencies, schools, and physicians at the heart of the SOC philosophy.

SOC involves collaboration across government and private agencies, providers, and families to improve access and to expand the array of coordinated community-based services and support for children with serious emotional disturbance. It is defined as a broad array of effective services and supports for children and adolescents with behavioral health disorders and their families. These services and supports are organized into a coordinated network, integrate care planning and management across multiple levels, are culturally and linguistically competent, and build meaningful partnerships with families and youth at service delivery, management, and policy levels.

Community-based service delivery is a core value and the critical mechanism of SOC. “Family is the best structure to support mental health care for the children who need it,” said Hammack. “Sometimes a child needs to be stabilized in another environment, but the intervention must be purposeful, meaningful, and have an objective. Parents will be involved in developing a customized treatment and service delivery plan, but more importantly the patient has a voice, too.”  

In the SOC approach, there is a focus on prevention and early intervention in the least restrictive setting. Instead of an approach where child and family must "fit" services, there is an individualized/wraparound approach. Services are delivered by multidisciplinary teams and blended resources with comprehensive service array and coordinated service delivery.

The Texas Institute for Excellence in Mental Health Care, which is part of the Center for Social Work at the University of Texas, will be a subcontractor for the SAMHSA grant. In Texas, the percentage of youth reporting improved functioning from treatment received in the mental health system was the lowest in the nation as a whole, according to the state’s Behavioral Health Barometer 2013 report. Collaboration is the first and perhaps the most crucial first step in the implementation of community-based service delivery. Success is often dependent on the knowledge, skills, and abilities of key staff members who emphasize person-centered partnerships that strengthen the capacity of the mental health workforce—keeping communities healthy and resilient.  

Source: Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. Behavioral Health Barometer: Texas, 2013. HHS Publication No. SMA-13-4796TX. Rockville, MD: Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, 2013

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