Indiana's 'Dawn Project' Improves Youth Mental Health Services and Saves Money

Between February 1996 and October 1997, the State of Indiana Office of the Secretary of Family & Social Services, Indianapolis, carried out the Dawn Project.

It developed a state-level consortium of agencies to pool mental health treatment dollars to serve seriously emotionally disturbed children and adolescents through a capitated care management entity.

Consortium agencies included education, child welfare, juvenile justice and mental health and substance abuse services.

The project was part of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation's (RWJF) national program Mental Health Services Program for Youth Replication.

Key Results

The project was piloted in Marion County, home to the state capital of Indianapolis. The consortium identified and addressed state and local operational issues of implementation for future statewide replication.

The consortium:

  • Assisted Dawn Project payers in avoiding more than $2 million in placement costs.
  • Documented decreases in length of stay in residential care compared to the client's previous year.
  • Documented significant improvement in the Child and Adolescent Functional Assessment Scale scores across all client functional domains.
  • Moved clients to less restrictive levels of care without compromising their care.
  • Documented the length of stay in the program for those who graduated at 11 months.
  • Documented a reduction by 50 percent in the cost of residential care.
  • Graduated 67 youths, 36 of them transitioning back to either family care or a lower level of care in the community.