The article "Report Faults Child Mental Health Care" [Metro in Brief, Sept. 28] misrepresents the focus and findings of a Government Accountability Office study, "D.C. Child and Family Services Agency: More Focus Needed on Human Capital Management Issues for Caseworkers and Foster Parent Recruitment and Retention."

The GAO studied the period between March and June, when the Child and Family Services Agency and the Department of Mental Health began applying a $14 million federal allocation to improve the lives of children and youths in the foster care system. The two agencies received this grant in March with an expected completion date of Sept. 30. The Child and Family Services Agency received $10.1 million. The Department of Mental Health received the balance of $3.9 million, with two goals:

* Reducing the backlog of court-ordered evaluations of the mental health needs of children in foster care.

* Creating a new infrastructure of evidence-based mental health services to be available to children in foster care. Having been given only six months to complete these tasks, the Department of Mental Health moved quickly with the Child and Family Services Agency and community partners to meet these goals.

I am happy to report that we achieved the first goal within the time the GAO expected. The Department of Mental Health increased the staff for evaluations from six psychiatrists and psychologists in April to 20 in August, and the wait time has dropped from three months to less than a month for a psychiatric examination and from two months to one week for a psychological examination.

The second goal is within reach, again in the GAO's expected time frame. We are bringing new services that have been proven elsewhere -- multisystemic therapy, intensive home and community-based services, and mobile response and stabilization services -- to the District to help children and youths with the most serious needs. Together these services support our overall objective of treating children in their homes, schools and neighborhoods, which is a departure from the District's long-standing habit of sending them to out-of-state residential treatment centers.

The Department of Mental Health is doing more to improve the emotional well-being of District children and youths than has ever been done before. I regret that your readers were misled into believing otherwise.



D.C. Department of Mental Health