Until recently, some Virginia parents whose children had serious mental health problems faced heart-rending choices. For the state to pay for their children’s care, they first had to relinquish custody.
Margaret Nimmo Crowe met one mother who’d drained her family’s savings, taken out multiple mortgages and maxed out her insurance to get care for her son, who had received multiple serious diagnoses. She needed the state’s help, but wouldn’t surrender her son.
Crowe brought the mother to speak to a council of state officials. After hearing her story, the council agreed to study the issue, which led to legislation that ended the custody-or-funds conundrum.
“That parent wouldn’t have gotten in front of that body without me,” Crowe says. “But it was what she said that really mattered.”
As the coordinator of the Campaign for Children’s Mental Health, Crowe seeks to influence policymakers to improve children’s mental health services. One in five children in Virginia has some mental health problem, Crowe says. Of those, 100,000 have a serious condition that if untreated could lead them to abuse drugs and alcohol, drop out of school and end up in the juvenile justice system.
Crowe’s cautiously optimistic. On Nov. 1, she expects the state to release its first-ever plan for increasing access to children’s mental health services.
And the son whose mother fought so hard for him in 2003? He graduated with a B average, is headed to community college and plans to join the military. “He’s doing so much better than anybody ever thought he would,” Crowe says.