New UI center looks to improve child mental health services - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

New UI center looks to improve child mental health services

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CEDAR FALLS (KWWL) -

The Iowa Board of Regents is considering a measure that could have a major influence on the way Iowa children receive mental health services.

The University of Iowa is looking to establish a center dedicated to improving the state's disability and mental health system.

Thursday the Regents will decide whether to accept the recommendation for the plan.

Kim Jensen of Cedar Falls is looking for answers for her 11-year-old daughter, who is battling a severe mental illness called Reactive Attachment Disorder.

Jensen has dealt with the frustration of searching for effective treatment.

"It's extremely frustrating that you have a child that you can't figure out how to help," she said.

Some ten thousand families in Iowa find themselves in similar situations.

A recent study estimates that's the number of children whose mental health needs are being unmet.

"I think we could do so much better about having wrap around services available for these children and having team meetings where everybody is invited to the table," Jensen said.

As part of the state's overall mental health redesign, a new idea looks to better coordinate services across the state.

"We want children to ultimately reach their optimal potential," said Dr. Debra Waldron with the UI Children's Hospital, who also serves as Vice Chair for Child Health Policy and Statewide Health Services.

The University of Iowa is looking to create the Center for Child Health Improvement and Innovation.

The new center would create a team in charge of developing and implementing guidelines for treating kids battling mental illness in all 99 counties .

The group would also provide technical assistance in training community providers.

"We need to make it the norm that emotional, behavioral, and mental health services are well-coordinated with the rest of the health care so there are no barriers," Waldron said..

The hope is a new system can finally get the results families like the Jensen's have been so desperately searching for.

"If you're not working with them in their childhood until they turn 18, then you lose control," Jensen said.

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