Mental Health Behavioral Aides vs. Personal Care Assistants

Published 9/6/2011
By: Nancy Beyer

Ok, so you are starting to wonder how to get more help with your child in school and/or at home and their PCA hours just got cut… or maybe they have never qualified to get them in the first place. You need to learn about Mental Health Behavioral Aides MHBAs!  They can work one on one with your child on mental health behaviors and skills by following a plan laid out for them from your child’s mental health professional. Read more about this from Here is an article from them that shows what an MHBA really is:

Mental Health Behavioral Aide vs. Personal Care Assistant
In MN, there is a little known service that is beginning to make big waves in children’s mental health. It’s the Mental Health Behavioral Aide service, and it is a Medical Assistance approved service benefitting children with Emotional Disturbance.

The service was created to help children learn, practice and retain skills being taught by a mental health professional. Parents have often questioned the usefulness of seeing a therapist only once a week to work on skills. It often feels like a fruitless endeavor to see a therapist once a week and then do nothing for the remaining six days.

The MHBA service was created to help kids practice and implement those important skills identified in the child’s treatment plan. Aides work with the child in their home, community or school setting as needed to help the child internalize the skills identified in their Individual Treatment Plan. MHBA’s can incorporate their work with the whole family, and can include involving siblings when appropriate.

This is a new service, and it has been misunderstood as the replacement for Personal Care Assistants (PCAs). While both MHBAs and PCAs work in the home, the similarities stop there. In MN, families with Medical Assistance who are parenting children with Level 1 behaviors (behaviors that include aggression toward others, self injury and property damage) have in the past qualified for PCA services for their child. Barring any changes, this benefit will no longer be available for children with Level 1 behaviors on July 1, 2011, unless they also need help in at least one area of Activities of Daily Living  ADL’s(bathing, toiletting, feeding, dressing, transfers, etc.) . Many parents have asked, “Now what?” Parents have heard assertions that the MHBA service is a replacement for the soon to disappear PCA services. But the services are different and address different needs.

Below are some of the differences between the two programs.

Rehabilitative service under CTSS Offers supports for physical disability and Activities of Daily Living (ADLs)
Addresses the skill set missing due to the child’s mental illness. Can redirect behavior and help maintain the safety of the child.
Practitioner teaches the skills, and the MHBA helps the child practice the skills so that the skill is more readily learned and internalized
Examples: MHBA works with child on activities that help a child manage their anger Examples: Help a child with grooming tasks, moving, transferring, and feeding.
Activities must be performed in the home or community setting (like school or church) Instrumental activities of daily living (includes meal planning and preparation, managing finances, shopping for essential items, performing essential household chores, communication by telephone and other media and getting around and participating in the community)
Allowed to include siblings (if written into the treatment plan.) PCA can work only with the client.
If crisis occurs, the parent must intervene. The MHBA can help in a crisis, but the primary caregiver is in charge. Parent is not required to be present at the time of service.
Hours are determined by the mental health practitioner and written into the treatment plan. The goals of the treatment plan will determine the number of MHBA hours the child will receive. Hours are determined by the Public Health Nurse using a universal tool for all providers.

For more information about the MHBA service, contact your local mental health agency.

Click here for a list of MN Agencies offering MHBA services.

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