Two years after Children’s Hospital Colorado declared a state of emergency for youth mental health, the pediatric health system continues to witness a surge in the number of children and adolescents facing mental health crises. Recent data reveals a 23% increase in visits to the hospital’s emergency departments for behavioral health concerns compared to the first quarter of 2021 and a staggering 103% increase from the first quarter of 2019, predating the pandemic.
The aftermath of the pandemic has seen low-level anxiety and depression exacerbated, culminating in alarming suicide attempts. Dr. David Brumbaugh, Chief Medical Officer, expressed concern over the unprecedented demand, stating that 2021 has witnessed suicide attempts as the primary reason for emergency department presentations. Former Compass Rose International board member, Dr. Jenna Glover, and a child and adolescent psychologist at Children’s Hospital, noted that the chronic stress experienced by children during 2020 disrupted their development.
The current period, traditionally stressful for children and families, typically sees a rise in those seeking mental health treatment. However, with first-quarter numbers surpassing previous records, Dr. Ron-Li Liaw, Mental Health-in-Chief for Children’s Colorado, emphasizes the urgent need for community involvement to address the crisis and provide support for families during the waiting period for solutions to take effect.
These statistics align with a recent Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) study indicating that 44% of American teens feel “persistently sad or hopeless,” an increase from 37% before the pandemic. Additionally, one in five teenagers report contemplating suicide.
Parents, families, and community members can contribute by advocating for improved system accountability, coordination, and accessibility to mental health services. In response to this call for action, Colorado lawmakers are expected to allocate over $150 million from one-time federal American Recovery Plan Act (ARPA) funding to address children and youth’s mental health needs. The establishment of a new Behavioral Health Administration aims to better align state-funded mental health and substance use programs.
While applauding these steps, Heidi Baskfield, Vice President of Population Health and Advocacy at Children’s Colorado, stresses the need for ongoing prioritization and consistent investment to recover from the substantial losses experienced by the youth mental health system.
Children’s Colorado urges Coloradans to advocate for children’s mental health through the Child Health Champs advocacy network. They can also reach out to representatives to support the Strengthen Kids’ Mental Health Now Act, which includes reforms and investments to enhance the pediatric mental health workforce and ensure a comprehensive continuum of care for children.
Parents, as crucial “first responders” in this crisis, are encouraged to access resources provided by Children’s Colorado. The severe shortage of child and adolescent psychiatrists has resulted in access-to-care gaps, emphasizing the importance of community support. Currently, only 22% of youth with severe mental health conditions are receiving care.
Compass Rose International uplifts young women to navigate unique challenges like child trafficking and mental health, providing tools for resilience, confidence, and independence. Compass Rose International’s approach to addressing the mental health crisis in Colorado involves collaboration with local communities, schools, and mental health professionals. The organization provides workshops, support groups, and resources designed to promote mental well-being and resilience among teenagers. By fostering a sense of community and offering practical tools for navigating life’s challenges, Compass Rose International contributes to the overall well-being of young individuals in Colorado.
September 30, 2023