A program to assist desperate parents in rural Tennessee is expanding to DeKalb and half a dozen other counties. The initiative, which is already operating in Putnam and Coffee counties, establishes a two-person support team — a care coordinator and a family support specialist, who is often the parent of a child with a mental health diagnosis.
Director Keri Vergo says they will work only with the most difficult kids, targeting young people at-risk of being kicked out of school, on the verge of psychiatric hospitalization or being placed in state custody.
"This is really that top five percent of children and youth who are seen in the Medicaid system who are really, really severe and we have just had no success before," she said in a video announcement.
The goal is to both decrease the use of costly inpatient care paid for by TennCare and reduce the number of out-of-home placements with the Department of Children's Services.
The idea is to break down barriers between the many governmental entities that often touch the same person and intervene when a turnaround is still possible.
"When you wrap services and supports around families and young people in a program like this, you have the opportunity to change the course of someone’s life, and that’s a really powerful thing," Tennessee Department of Mental Health commissioner Marie Williams said in a statement.
The program, known as System of Care Across Tennessee (SOCAT), is funded by a $12 million federal grant and got rolling in October 2016. Eventually, state officials say they hope to have the program in all 95 counties.