We are still processing the incredible tragedy in Newtown, CT.  The fact that we have children that suffer from behavioral challenges, mental health issues and substance abuse has created constant pain, an ache deep in our hearts.  Our hearts break for all of the parents and families who have lost loved ones and a dark, heavy shadow looms over us. We know that, if we feel this way, there are many other parents that are very afraid.

The news reports filled with sensationalized labels –madman, killer, murderer, crazed gunman, evil—sadden and dismay us. Too little focus has been given to the words illness, autism, disability, psychological pain. Scant light has been shed on the tremendous challenges and overwhelming struggles of caring for children and youth who suffer with emotional, mental, behavioral and substance use issues. Yet, the complex realities of such challenges and struggles are certainly deserving of society’s attention and focus. According to the National Federation of Families for Children’s Mental Health, severe mental illness that causes functional impairment affects 1 in 10 of our children and teens. Eighty percent of people with multiple mental health and substance abuse disorders report the onset before age 20. And, although mental illness and disorders affect so many children and teens aged 6 to 17, 79% of them do not receive mental health care.

As families who grapple with these challenges, we stand resolved to speak out, share information and resources and, support other families and organizations to make a much needed difference in our communities.  We will be the change President Obama has called for in our nation.  We will work to chip away at the stigma that results in too many families, children and youth hiding in plain sight among us, unable to reach out, to find answers and receive assistance. We will work to ensure every family in need receives a helping hand in navigating the system of care and the support that does exist. We will augment that care by offering information and referral, parent classes, parent peer support, youth peer counselors, family networking opportunities and advocacy on the local, state and national levels.  It is“our first task” to care for all the children of King County and we agree with President Obama, “If we don’t get that right, we don’t get anything right.”

Susan Millender                                                                      Gretchen Herzog

Executive Director                                                                   President

                                                                                                   Board of Directors