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Mule Town Family Network: free help for families of children with a serious emotional disturbance

 Mule Town Family Network (MTFN) in Columbia, TN, (931.560.3072) offers assistance for families of children with an SED. They use a system called “Wraparound” that helps the family “wrap” all of the necessary services and supports around them. MTFN is a collaboration of agencies that include: TN Dept. of Mental Health and Developmental Disabilities, TN Voices for Children, and Centerstone. 

What is an SED?

 “What is a ‘serious emotional disturbance’?” you may ask. A serious emotional disturbance or, SED, is any mental health diagnosis that severely interrupts ones ability to function in normal day to day activities such as school or work. According to Mental Health: A Report of the Surgeon General (1999), at least one in five children and adolescents have an SED.



Challenges
 
Having a child in the home with an SED can present many challenges to a family such as: learning difficulties, behavioral issues, and depression. Often parents, when faced with behavior challenges, are told by peers that they "just need to buckle down” with their children or that “the child/ren just need more discipline.” These kinds of statements are often destructive and, at the very least, disheartening to the family that is facing this challenge. 
 
Another challenge these families often face is having to navigate different systems within their community. These systems can be: juvenile justice, educational and even medical. Many times parents feel at a loss when it comes to advocating for themselves. They may not know how to navigate the school system – for example, do you know the difference between an IEP and a 504 plan? How many parents even know what an IEP is? (It is an “Individualized Education Plan.”) If you would like more information on this topic see http://www.slc.sevier.org/iepv504.htm or http://www.wrightslaw.com/blog/?p=122
 

 
 Mule Town Family Network
 
While the MTFN is free to the families they serve, there are a few criteria that the family needs to meet. First, the child needs to have a valid mental health diagnosis. Second, the mental health disorder needs to be at the “SED” level – in other words, the child must be having difficulty at home and/or school due to the disorder. MTFN does bill TN Care for those that have it, and is currently free for those that do not have insurance. 
 

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