Promoting and protecting the health and safety of all Idahoans

Parent Resources

When Your Child Has a Serious Emotional or Behavioral Disorder 
Estimates are that about 20 percent of Idaho’s children may need some type of treatment for emotional or behavioral disorders which can negatively affect their thinking, feelings, judgment, emotions and/or behavior. While most children with emotional and behavioral disorders are able to benefit from services such as individual or family counseling, about half of this 20 percent experience severe and persistent disorders. These children are often failing at school, at home, within the community and require more intensive services and supports.

What's happening to my child? 
Emotional and behavioral disorders can take a number of forms. Children may be in danger of harming themselves or someone else. They may withdraw, be fearful, jumpy or sad and depressed. The exact cause of these problems is largely unknown and usually varies from child to child. Current research suggests that biological, social, psychological and environmental factors are all important.

Effective treatments are available!
A wide range of therapeutic, educational and social services is essential to address the needs of children with emotional and/or behavioral disorders and their families. Nationwide experience says that a good mental health service system should: 

  • Be community-based;
  • Least restrictive;
  • Offer a variety of services; and
  • Be family-centered — treat the child and help all family members cope with their child'schallenging behavior.

What services are available? 
There is a continuum of publicly-funded services available to eligible children. These services include:

  • Assessment and screenings including diagnostic evaluations and planning;
  • Psychotherapy services and pharmacologic management;
  • Community-based rehabilitation services for individuals with serious emotional disturbance (SED);
  • Peer and family support services; and
  • Case management and crisis services.
  • Community Based Rehabilitation Services (CBRS), previously known as PSR services, aid in skill development in a variety of community settings.
  • Out-of-Home Placement Services include such services as therapeutic foster care, residential treatment, brief psychiatric hospitalization, and other alternate care treatment. All community-based services are designed to prevent the need for more restrictive care such as hospitalization and residential care. 

The majority of services listed above (with the exception of Out of Home Placement) may be covered by your child’s Medicaid* benefits. Effective September 1, 2013, Medicaid-funded behavioral health services for children are administered by Optum Idaho, Medicaid’s managed care behavioral health contractor. Services will be authorized based on need and are provided through Optum-enrolled network providers. To learn more about your child’s access services through Medicaid call 1-855-202-0893 or go to Optum Idaho.

Cost of mental health services
Mental health treatment, like all medical care, can be expensive. Your child’s treatment may be paid for through a health insurance policy, directly by you, or with your child’s Medicaid card. In addition, Idaho receives a limited amount of funds from the state legislature and the federal government which may be used to help purchase treatment services for eligible children. Your share of the costs of these services is based on your family’s ability to pay using a sliding fee scale. 

Where do I go for help?
(1) You can contact Children's Mental Health through the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare to complete an application for services.

(2) Children's Mental Health staff will help determine your child’s and family’s eligibility for services. This determination is based on the severity of the child’s illness and the "medical necessity" of the services.

(3) If your child and family are determined to be eligible, a staff member will work with your family to complete a comprehensive assessment.  

(4) The staff person and your family, together, will develop a Service Plan. The Service Plan identifies specific concerns, strengths, what needs to happen to make things better, and how long it should take.

(5) For families without Medicaid or other insurance, a sliding fee scale is used to determine your share of costs.

(6) You and the staff person review the available providers from which you will select one or more to provide services.

(7) The plan is reviewed periodically by Children's Mental Health staff to make sure that the services are helping your child and family.

If you are a parent of a child with a mental health concern and would like information about resources and supports, please visit the Youth Empowerment Services Parents page.
For additional help/information on parent support services and advocacy for children with mental health please call Idaho Federation of Families for Children's Mental Health at 208.433.8845 or toll free at 800.905.3436 or email