projectsHarris County Children, Youth, and Families Systems Assessment

Harris County Children, Youth, and Families Systems Assessment

SUMMARY – In 2016, Houston Endowment partnered with the Meadows Institute to conduct a thorough assessment of Harris County’s available mental health resources for children and youth, identifying gaps in the system and offering strategic recommendations and opportunities for growth.

1 in 3

children and youth aged from 6-18 suffer from mental health and substance use disorders in Harris County


roughly the number of children and youth in Harris County with severe needs


children and youth in Harris County with severe needs who live in poverty

Project Details

Thanks to the generous support of Houston Endowment, the Meadows Institute conducted a comprehensive assessment of health care system capacity for providing mental health services for Harris County children, youth, and families.

The study found that, as in most places, mental health care in Harris County is delivered – when it is delivered – at the specialty care level. The Meadows Institute noted a lack of help being provided on the primary care or rehabilitative levels.

Effectively, this created a systemic barrier to care that caused many families to not seek care at all, at least until symptoms reach a crisis level, and that, all too often, occurs in a juvenile justice facility or an emergency room,

The study also examined social determinants of health, including economic stability, education, health, access to health care, and the social and community context in which children and youth live. Further, it studied pockets of need across the county, far from treatment providers and public transportation, and many outlying school districts lack providers within their geographic borders.

The study recommended a transformation from a disjointed, fragmented system into a coordinated, “Ideal System of Care,” which includes:

  • Integrating behavioral health into pediatric primary care settings, where most mild-to- moderate needs – such as anxiety and depression – can be ably treated.
  • Providing specialty behavioral health care for children and youth with more complex, moderate-to-severe needs.
  • Increasing the availability of rehabilitation services for children and youth with the most severe needs.
  • Creating a Crisis Care Continuum able to respond to a full range of periodic, intense needs that routinely occur during treatment, including mobile teams able to respond to the most urgent needs.

This report detailed the strengths and weaknesses of the Harris County system, and outlined a path toward making it more effective and responsible for all of the county’s young people.

Explore More

July 29, 2019

2019 Nantucket Children’s Mental Health Summit

From July 31-August 2, The Hackett Center for Mental Health is hosting the second annual “Nantucket Children’s Mental Health Summit.” This unique and important event, brings together the leading minds in children’s mental health...

Learn more
April 29, 2020

Texas better positioned to support children’s mental health

The Meadows Mental Health Policy Institute and The Hackett Center for Mental Health are working with providers, advocates, and state leaders who remain focused on the well-being of Texas children, despite the pandemic. Well in…

Learn more
June 6, 2019

Meadows Mental Health Policy Institute Applauds Signing of SB 11 & HB 18

The Meadows Mental Health Policy Institute (MMHPI) today applauded Gov. Greg Abbott’s signing of SB 11 and HB 18, historic legislation which will improve access to effective mental health care from the family doctor, provide…

Learn more
October 30, 2017

Meadows Mental Health Policy Institute, Houston Endowment Assessment Finds 310,000 Harris County Youth Have Mental Health Needs

Today, the Meadows Mental Health Policy Institute (MMHPI) and Houston Endowment released a comprehensive assessment of the scope and quality of mental health services available for Harris County children, youth and their families. The report…

Learn more
May 19, 2020

Mental Health Awareness Month – A Focus on Children & Families

Mental Health Awareness Month is a good time to remember that mental illness is actually a pediatric disease. That’s because half of all mental illnesses emerge by the time a child turns 14, and 75%…

Learn more
April 10, 2020

Rees-Jones System Assessment Focuses on Children’s Mental Health in Dallas County

Assessments are valuable tools for communities to help take stock of their resources, identify gaps in care, and understand how various systems work or, in some cases, don’t work together. MMHPI develops these assessments for…

Learn more