Yellowstone Boys and Girls Ranch is seeking a $1 million research grant to study a new, drug-free way to treat mental health issues in children.
“What we ultimately hope to do is avoid simply medicating kids into oblivion to control their behavior,” said Stephen Mandler, “We’re really talking about training kids and family members to think in new ways so that they are more cognizant of the minds of other people and their own.”
The goal of the “mentalization-based treatment for families,” is to teach children to show more empathy and concern for others, and in the process develop problem-solving skills that make some behavior-modifying medication unnecessary. Chartered by the London-based Anna Freud Center, the treatment teaches families and children to understand each other’s ways of thinking and feeling.
Members of the Yellowstone Boys and Girls Ranch team met with U.S. Rep. Steve Daines on Monday to lobby for his support, which they said will be needed when competing for grant money against researchers on the East and West coasts.
The treatment has stirred little interest in the United States, the YBGR team said, because it doesn’t fit into the pay-for-services formula mental health workers follow in order to receive government aid.
YBGR would like to conduct a two-year study comparing the progress of children in conventional treatment with children involved in mentalization-based treatment for families. The study, which would involve groups of children both at YBGR and in the local community, would cost about $1.5 million.
The National Institutes of Health offers a $1 million research grant that could be important to funding the project.
The YBGR stop was Daines’ last after a weekend trip that included a visit with veterans in the Flathead Valley who were benefitting from animal therapy, but were being told the leave their dogs home during stays at Fort Harrison. Daines said both the YBGR study and pet therapy for veterans were examples of the need to look at things differently.
“We’re seeing there are other options than just medicating and I think we need to look at all of the options available to us that produce better outcomes for the people that need help,” Daines said, “whether it’s veterans or children at the Boys and Girls Ranch here.”