Wash. Lawmaker Pushes ‘Evidence-Based’ Treatments For Mentally Ill Youth

Feb 6, 2012

OLYMPIA, Wash. – “Talk therapy” may work in some cases. But a Washington state lawmaker says it’s time to invest in evidence-based programs to treat mentally ill youth. This past fall we brought you a series of stories on failures in how the Northwest treats young people with serious mental health issues. Correspondent Austin Jenkins has this update from Olympia.

State Representative Mary Lou Dickerson is blunt when it comes to how Washington treats kids with mental illness. “We are wasting a lot of money right now on ineffective programs,” she says.

Dickerson specifically points to one-on-one counseling sessions known as “talk therapy.” She says, instead, the state should spend its money on mental health programs that are proven to work. The term is “evidence-based.” And make these programs available to kids before they end up in the juvenile justice system.

“The hope is that eventually parents will be able to get mental health treatment for their kids when they need it so they don’t end up committing crimes,” Dickerson explains.

Dickerson, a Democrat, is pushing a measure this year that would require by 2019 75 percent of money the state spends to treat mentally ill youth will go to evidence-based programs. She says that can’t happen overnight because you have to build the infrastructure and train the counselors.

Copyright 2012 Northwest News Network