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SCHIP Legislation Can Prevent Future Violence

Oct 11, 2007
The US has the highest rate of violence and incarceration of all the Western Nations. Additionally, it appears that the rates of violence and murder in US cities are again on the rise. What can we do to stem the tide of children growing up to be criminal and violent in their families and their communities?

We know that when the basic needs of children and adolescents are not met at home, they are at risk for behavioral and mental health problems. We also know that these children need services to prevent their behavior and mental health problems from becoming worse and entrenched. So, when politicians say we cannot afford basic health programs like SCHIP, they, perhaps are not aware that the dollars spent on childhood physical and mental health care can prevent spending hundreds of thousands of dollars as they grow older and their problems worsen due to lack of care. Add to that the cost of losses in families and communities due to violence. The costs of doing too little far outweighs the costs of doing the right thing in the first place. We can give them treatment when they are young or lock them up when they grow up. Incarceration costs much more that outpatient treatment and prevention.

Research has demonstrated that good prevention of later delinquency, child abuse and violence includes home visiting programs and Head Start type programs with family involvement. Family therapy, mentoring, and skill building are effective for young "at risk" youth. A recent study of school based mental health (Schmidt, Seifert, Weist, 2007) demonstrated that this type of program can reduce disciplinary problems and absenteeism, while improving mental health and self-esteem of children who participate in the program when compared to those who do not participate. We know what to do. We know that it works. To not do it is inefficient, ineffective and wrong.

SCHIP funds physical and mental health care for children and adolescents who do not have health insurance. This year there is a bill to expand the coverage of SCHIP. The President has vetoed this bill. The senate probably does not have enough votes to over-ride the veto. However, it is important to understand that we will all gain by making sure that all children and teens have adequate physical and mental health care. Billions have been lost due to fraud in Iraq. There needs to be efforts to clean up the fraud and spend that money on our future, our children.
About the Author
Dr. Kathy Seifert is the author of the award winning book, "How Children Become Violent" and the "CARE2: Youth Chronic Violence Risk and Needs Assessment." Get her free, monthly newsletter on her website http://drkathyseifert.com
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