Children's Hospitals Sound the Alarm for Kids' Mental Health

Children's Hospitals Sound the Alarm for Kids' Mental Health

The pandemic has exacerbated the behavioral health crisis in the U.S., constituting a national mental health emergency for children and teens.

Children's mental health concerns were common before the COVID-19 pandemic, with 1 in 5 children experiencing a mental health condition annually. The pandemic worsened this ongoing crisis in children's mental health by causing disruptions in daily routine, social isolation, financial insecurity and grief for many children and families.

What children’s hospitals are reporting

Children's hospitals across the country are seeing a rise in mental and behavioral health issues for kids:

  • Children's Hospital Colorado reports emergency room visits for behavioral health reasons increased 72% statewide between January and April 2021. They declared a mental health state of emergency in May 2021.

  • Franciscan Children's in Boston reports requests for outpatient behavioral health services for children of color increased 19% during the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic, compared to the year before.

  • Children's Wisconsin in Milwaukee experienced an 80% increase in referrals for mental health services in December 2020. More than 700 children are on a waitlist for outpatient therapy.

  • Wolfson Children's Hospital in Jacksonville, Florida, experienced a 200% increase in the number of behavioral health emergency admissions in 2020 compared to the previous year.

Children’s Hospital Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (AACAP) declared a national mental health emergency for children and teens.

Sound the Alarm for Kids, founded by CHA, expands on the declaration by outlining the urgency needed to promote the well-being of the nations’ children. With data-supported evidence and spokespeople to generate awareness of the mental health crisis in children, this initiative calls on Congress to act in support of the needs of children and their families. 

To address the ongoing crisis in children’s mental health, CHA has asked Congress to:

  • Invest in pediatric mental health infrastructure. Provide additional funding in grants to children's health care providers to increase their capacity to provide pediatric mental health services.
  • Support the pediatric mental health workforce. Provide additional funding annually dedicated to pediatric mental health workforce training and development across a wide array of pediatric mental health fields.

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