As a result of last year’s 21st Century Cures Act, a new Interdepartmental Serious Mental Illness Coordinating Committee (ISMICC) has issued its set of recommendations.

The full report: The Way Forward: Federal Action for a System That Works for All People Living With SMI and SED and Their Families and Caregivers addresses how the government can improve care for the 10 million adults with serious mental illness and 7 million adults and children who have serious emotional disturbances each year.

Among the improvements, coordinate federal efforts more effectively, expand access to evidence-based best practices, steer people with serious mental illness or emotional disturbances to health settings instead of the criminal justice system (two million people with serious mental illness are incarcerated each year), and find ways to improve the availability and affordability of care.

The report includes several observations and a discussion of mental health disorders for children and youth. The report calls for early prevention and intervention for children and youth pointing out that most people who develop a mental health disorder do so before the age of 24.

Through SAMSHA’s Children’s Mental Health Initiative (CMHI) the report references data being collected through that program. Caregivers of youth entering the CMHI program reported:

• 4 in 10 (39.7 percent) children and youth had been exposed to domestic violence at some point in life,
• one in five (21.7 percent) had been exposed to such violence during the prior six months,
• More than one in five of these youth were missing school frequently,
• nearly half (47.2 percent) had been suspended or expelled from school,
• Nearly three quarters of these youth (73.5 percent) lived with someone who had shown signs of depression in the six months before entering services,
• nearly half (48.4 percent) had a family member with a mental illness other than depression.

The committee will continue to exist and as part of their future work they will continue to collect existing data and begin a broader evaluation of federal policies and programs, and their impact nationally. They also plan to examine the non-federal recommendations and will track the progress in implementing recommendations.