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Children’s Hospitals Across the Nation Addressing Mental Health

With an escalating mental health crisis affecting children, children’s hospitals are strengthening community partnerships to support kids’ health as they return to school. 

The effects of the pandemic have negatively impacted children and their mental health in unprecedented ways, and children’s hospitals across the country are working urgently every day to help children in crises. CHA data shows that currently over 80% of children’s hospitals in the U.S. offer child and adolescent mental and behavioral health services.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, between April and October of 2020, there was a 24% increase in mental health emergency department visits for kids ages 5-11 compared with the same period in 2019. According to CHA data, in the latter half of 2020, children’s hospitals saw a 17% increase in suicide and self-injury cases (inpatient and emergency) among kids aged 5-18 compared to the year before. To provide the care children and youth need, children’s hospitals are working with parents, communities and partner organizations to strengthen prevention, diagnostic and treatment services for mental and behavioral health conditions. Here are a few examples:

  • In April 2020, Children’s Hospital New Orleans celebrated the opening of its new Behavioral Health Center, which offers acute inpatient, outpatient, psychology and psychiatric serves for behavioral health for kids who are 7-17 years old. This is the largest and most comprehensive center that serves patients and families from across the Gulf South.
  • In Milwaukee, Children’s Wisconsin provides school-based mental health services in 47 urban and rural schools throughout the state, and that number grows each year. Currently Children’s Wisconsin provides therapists in 53 schools and is adding eight more this school year.
  • Children’s Hospital Colorado created Partners for Children’s Mental Health (PCMH), a community-led center, offering trainings and workshops to help Colorado schools and staff meet the mental health needs of students. The workshops help school communities develop policies and procedures to intervene with students experiencing thoughts of suicide and respond after a suicide loss. PCMH also provides custom training based on the needs of school communities throughout the state.

This is the tip of the iceberg and there’s more that needs to be done – we must rebuild our pediatric mental health care system to ensure our children are healthy and resilient.

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