Saturday, June 12, 2010

Agencies serving youth need to cooperate, Mendocino County grand jury finds

Ukiah Daily Journal Staff
Updated: 06/11/2010 10:58:46 PM PDT

Working together would expand, rather than deplete, limited funds

The Daily Journal

County agencies, both public and private, need to work more cooperatively to better serve at-risk youth, the Mendocino County grand jury reported this week.

"The GJ is appalled at the continued loss of programs that have proven beneficial to helping young people," the report titled "Services to Youth At Risk" states. "Proven programs to assist youth with personal difficulties are essential to improve their chances of living productive lives and staying out of the penal system."

To maximize the services that are available to troubled youth, the GJ recommends that the Mendocino County Health and Human Services Agency "maintain partnership programs" with non-profit agencies in the county.

"The GJ was surprised to learn of the connections between county and private agencies - the web of services, utilized by multiple agencies, makes it difficult to determine the lead agency and who is accountable when problems arise," the report states. "The GJ also noted duplication of services and potential inflated costs by the non-profit agencies (because) instead of joining together in applying for limited funds, they often compete with one another."

The GJ said the county's youth are "particularly vulnerable" to drug and alcohol problems, and described the county as having "a culture that accepts drug use," along with "a lack of social, recreational and employment opportunities for young people," and "rural isolation, dysfunctional families and homelessness."

The GJ also recommends that:

- given the declining resources available and the diminishing number of children in foster care, the three foster agencies (should) work collaboratively by having quarterly meetings, and eliminating duplication of administrative services and costs.

- all possible support be given by Mendocino County Health and Human Services Agency to county programs that diagnose and treat young children with mental health issues. It is imperative to continue to provide support for parenting programs that lead to family reunification.

- the Probation Department and courts reinstate Juvenile Drug Court and find funding for Teen Court.

- it is critical that County Mental Health Services staff improve record-keeping and billing processes for Medi-Cal, to improve services and to learn how to bill providers other than Medi-Cal.

The GJ also described First 5, an agency that funds several programs for children 5 and younger, as "an exemplary program that minimizes administrative costs and utilizes its funds to provide programs for children and their parents. The GJ was impressed by the agency's long term financial and program planning, (and) other agencies could learn from their example."

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