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[whitespace] Jerry Doyle
Photograph by Paul Meyers

Not Ready For The Brushoff: Jerry Doyle, the director of Eastfield Ming Quong in Campbell, is seen here in the art therapy room for children.

Teenage Wasteland

Proposed cuts could compromise programs for abused and troubled teens

By Loren Stein

For cutting-edge mental health services for children and adolescents, look no further than the 133-year-old nonprofit EMQ (Eastfield Ming Quong) Children & Family Services in Campbell. Ming Quong's founder, Donaldina Cameron, went up against San Francisco's Asian mafia in 1874 and rescued Chinese girls sold into prostitution; now the agency, led by Jerry Doyle, provides innovative treatment and services to kids with serious emotional and behavioral problems and their families.

Every year, some 5,600 desperately unhappy, depressed or mentally disturbed children--many of whom have been sexually or physically abused--and their families receive lifesaving help through EMQ's residential, school-based and day-treatment services, substance and child-abuse services, crisis and intensive-support services, and foster-family care. Its pioneering Wraparound program, the first of its kind in California, offers children with complex problems individualized, comprehensive services in their home environment. It's a success story all its own: since its inception in 1994, 87 percent of the kids are safe and living with their families.

Only 8,000 out of an estimated 36,000 children in Santa Clara County who are in need of mental health services get help, says Doyle. "The need is huge compared to existing resources." So why on earth would Davis cut back funds for phenomenally successful programs that give vitally needed care? "The proposed budget cuts impact the poorest and weakest in the community," says an exasperated Doyle, who's been with EMQ for 32 years. "Obviously, kids can't vote and don't have political influence. It's just criminal not to provide them with this kind of support."

Children who don't get help in time are often relegated to a life of hopelessness. Here's a startling statistic: 67 percent of the 20,000 18-year-olds who are transitioned each year out of the country's foster-care system are homeless, incarcerated or dead within one year. California's foster-care system is the largest in the country, with 119,000 children.

Doyle is bracing EMQ for cutbacks, which could force him to close at least one program and reduce intake in others. "I feel very frustrated. We've been trying to build a decent mental health system in Santa Clara County for many years," he says. The expansion of its new Therapeutic Behavior Services program, mandated by litigation, might have to be curtailed. Ninety percent of EMQ's $47 million budget is contingent on state or county dollars, says Doyle.

Davis has proposed a $35 million cut in the state's Children's Services Program as well as eliminating the state's Children's System of Care, a $1.3 million program in Santa Clara County geared toward children at risk, both of which contribute dollars to EMQ. Davis' plan also requires the county to match by 10 percent any growth in preventive-health programs funded by the federal Early and Periodic Screening, Diagnosis and Treatment Program. The federal program matches every dollar spent at the state or county level, so a 10 percent cut ultimately means a 20 percent loss in children's services. This cut is "the single biggest threat to children's services in the proposed budget," Doyle says.

"To think you can save money by not providing these services is short-sighted and counterproductive," he adds. "If kids don't get help when they're young, they end up in jail or in the adult mental health system, a drain on taxpayers for their entire life. These problems don't magically disappear, they get worse."

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From the May 30-June 5, 2002 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

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