The Jeff D. settlement: A big win for Idaho’s behavioral health landscape

It started in 1980 with a class-action lawsuit filed in Idaho against  the governor of Idaho, the Department of Health and Welfare (DHW), the Idaho Department of Juvenile Corrections (IDJC), and Idaho State Department of Education for failing to meet the mental health needs of youths determined to be severly emotionally disturbed (SED). The youths were initially housed with adults at the State Hospital South (SHS), then committed under the Youth Rehabilitation Act for criminal behavior.

The findings were clear: Idaho lacked both the appropriate treatment services and a lack of community-based mental health services. However, it took until 2015 for all parties to come to terms. Once signed, the “Jeff D. Class Action Lawsuit and Settlement Agreeement” ushered in a new system of care for Idaho.

“The agreement provides a promising structure for Idaho’s mental health system to be more responsive to the needs of children and families.” Jennifer Griffis, parent and chairwoman of the Idaho Behavioral Health State Planning Council. 

Transforming behavioral care for Idaho

Prior to Jeff D, youth-service agencies worked independently. In the new system of care, child-serving agencies collaborate to make sure that children with SED are identified as early as possible and are routed to the appropriate pathway for assessment and referral to services from any starting point (e.g. doctor, school, police).1

The new System of Care embodies the following principles:1

  • Family-centered by emphasizing family strengths and maximizing family resources.
  • Family & youth voice and choice are intentionally utilized throughout the process.
  • Strengths-based services and supports.
  • Individualized care that emphasizes the unique strengths and needs of the child and the child’s family.
  • Team-based with the parents included as active participants on the team.
  • Array of community-based services available to meet the unique needs of child & family.
  • Collaboration across all child-serving systems from treatment  planning to policy establishment and monitoring of these policies.
  • Early identification and interventions made available in a variety of settings.
  • Outcome-based to measure success of treatment plans and services.
  • Unconditional commitment from providers to achieve goals of  the treatment plan.
  • Culturally competent services that respect individual’s culture and preferences.

This marks a signficiant change in Idaho’s mental health service delivery model for children.
Here is where The Idaho Behavorial Health Collaborative (IDBC) is focused on building a robust continuum of care for children and youth. Through the Youth Empowerment Services (YES) Project, the Collaborative is partnering with children, youth, families and caregivers alongside our partners with DHW, to identify additional needed services.

Looking ahead

The time is long overdue to create solutions to these challenges. The collaborative’s envisioned behavioral health plan will improve the lives of all Idahoans, including youth, by developing solutions that ensure they get care – when and where they need it.

Though it may have started with “Jeff D”, there is no end to how we can improve the behavioral health system for the youth of Idaho—and beyond.