New Bill to Help Parents of Children With Mental Health Issues

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Knoxville (WVLT) - If your child suffers from mental health problems, and you can't seem to find enough local help for them, you aren't alone.

Volunteer TV's Whitney Daniel sat in on a town hall meeting to address this issue and gather ideas to improve the system state-wide.

New legislation has formed at a Select Committee on Children and Youth. That committee will spend the next few months gathering information on the system, how people access it and where the holes are. Then they'll present a plan to the legislature on how to improve it, but that effort begins with you.

"We all want what's best for our kids," parent Colleen Rutledge said.

And parents of kids with mental health issues are looking for it. And through this series of town hall meetings, they hope to find it.

"There's huge holes in the services delivering process where people who need the services are not getting them," said Robert E. Smith from the Tennessee Commission on Children and Youth.

Colleen Rutledge and her husband have adopted eight kids. All but one have needed mental health services.

"It's very hard because most of the time you have no idea what you really need. So, first you need to find somebody who can give you some options," Rutledge said.

But options and very limited access to mental health care is the problem. Legislation is the answer: "Senate Joint Resolution 799," passed last year, calls for a study of the mental health system in Tennessee.

"If they understand a little bit better if people are educated as well as we've tried to educate ourselves, then they're more likely to fund issues concerning our kids," Rutledge said.

"I do know a lot about what kids go through these days," one boy at the meeting said.

Sharing stories and experiences is one way they're gathering that 'understanding'. The Select Committee hears from parents and kids.
And once their voices are heard, it's the first step to making a difference.

"This isn't something that just happens at school or happens at home. It happens everywhere, everyday. Our children need special help 24/7," Rutledge said.

Thursday night's meeting was the third in a state-wide series. There will be a total of about 12-14 held, one in each DCS region..

They're thinking about holding more than that, and branching out into the rural regions, too.

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