Statewide Family Support Network

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Education and Awareness

The SFSN Program provides education and community awareness regarding child and adolescent mental health through a variety of methods. TVC provides booths at professional conferences and community events (such as community health fairs) and distributes Fact Sheets on children’s mental health diagnosis and treatment, newsletters, program brochures and descriptions. Trainings are also offered through the SFSN to both family members and professionals on a variety of topics associated with children’s mental health, effectively engaging families in all systems and family driven care.

The SFSN Program also works to increase parent participation on committees and councils that determine policy at the local, state, and national level concerning children and adolescent mental health. These include the seven Regional Planning Councils for the Tennessee Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services (TDMHSAS), and other advisory and policy making groups.

May is national Mental Health Awareness month, and the first week in May focuses on Children’s Mental Health. SFSN staff help develop Children’s Mental Health Week (CMHW) coalitions and events around the state. These celebrations are annual events that help promote, celebrate and raise awareness of children’s mental health issues. SFSN staff often chair/co-chair coalitions, fundraise and help plan the event in their area. They also recruit volunteers to help with celebration activities.

Education and Awareness

Another key component of the SFSN Program is the development of Family Support Groups across the state. Family Support Groups utilize a Parent/Professional Collaborative Model. This means that groups are co-facilitated by a parent of a child with mental health concerns and a professional with mental health experience. This is in keeping with the core values of the System of Care philosophy mentioned earlier, that parents are full partners in the program development and implementation process. Outreach Specialists train both the parent and the professional in this model and the procedures for TVC support groups. Support groups are a free service to families. Childcare is often provided to make it easier for families to participate.

Most groups meet either monthly or biweekly. Current groups are always listed in the Networker, TVC’s quarterly newsletter. Groups are located in East, West, and Middle TN. Each group is assigned to a specific Outreach Specialist to help with facilitation and management, giving the group co-faciliators a direct staff person to contact if any assistance is needed.

Advocacy and Support

Advocacy and support services are at the heart of the SFSN and include providing information about community resources, referral to resources, and education to help parents/caregivers and professionals have a better understanding of children and adolescent mental health disorders and needs. TVC provides a toll free access telephone number for families across Tennessee to ensure that parents/caregivers can reach out for assistance. The major concerns parents/caregivers have involve lack of access to servicesand supports through Special Education, TennCare, private insurance, and mental health providers.

Special Education: Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) & 504: Parents/caregivers often find it difficult to get their child evaluated at the school level. When that is achieved, they often have to advocate for needed services even when their child qualifies. SFSN Staff work with parents/caregivers to understand their rights, the laws that cover their children’s educational needs, and to actively engage in the process of developing educational plans that benefit their child.  For information on the individualized education program (IEP) and how to get the process started before you engage with an advocate, please review these helpful tips.

Sometimes children and youth with emotional and behavioral disturbances are involved in disciplinary actions at school including zero tolerance charges. SFSN Staff work with parents and school staff to develop the best outcome for the child in these incidences, with emphasis on keeping the child in school with all the necessary support services necessary for them to achieve success.

TennCare Behavioral Health Services & Private Insurance:
Children and youth who have a severe emotional disturbance (SED) often need mental health services and supports that vary in intensity from community based services such as case management or individual therapy to in-home counseling or day treatment to crisis intervention and sometimes inpatient hospitalization and residential treatment. More intensive levels of services are sometimes difficult to obtain as they have to be approved by the child’s insurance and managed care organization (MCO). SFSN Staff help parents communicate effectively with MCO staff, file appeals, and learn about their mental health benefits. SFSN Staff also work with parents/caregivers to keep children and youth out of state custody. Sometimes parents/caregivers have been encouraged by others to place their child in state custody to get necessary treatment services. However, when children are in state custody, there is no guarantee that they will get the proper treatment they need and parents have little control over what happens to their child. SFSN Staff help parents to find other options.

Lack of mental health providers in the community:
Parents/caregivers often call when they cannot find a doctor or counselor in their community to provide mental health services for their child or they may call and ask for recommendations as to who to contact for services. SFSN Staff can help parents/caregivers through referral and information on the options available in their community.

Need an advocate?

If you are a parent or caregiver of a child with a Serious Emotional Disturbance (SED) and need advocacy in the public school setting, please call 800-670-9882 to speak with our Intake Specialist. The intake will take about 10 minutes, and your information will be given to the advocate in your area, who will call you within 48/72 business hours.

This project is funded by the Tennessee Department of Mental Health Substance and Abuse Services.