Children's Hospital Colorado

Children's Hospital Colorado Stands With Partners - Declaring National Pediatric Mental Health Emergency

Children's Hospital Colorado | October 20, 2021

Today, Children's Hospital Colorado (Children's Colorado) announced their support of the declaration made by the Children's Hospital Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, that the American kids' mental health crisis is a national emergency. In May, Children's Colorado declared a state of emergency for youth mental health as the number of children experiencing behavioral health needs doubled and even tripled in some Colorado communities.

Bringing national attention to the youth mental health state of emergency

"We stand with the Children's Hospital Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry in bringing national attention to what is a youth mental health state of emergency," said Jena Hausmann, president and CEO of Children's Colorado. "Suicide remains the leading cause of death for children ages 10 and above in Colorado, emergency departments across the country are often overwhelmed with children battling mental health crises, and parents are frequently left without solutions. As a nation consisting of so many unique communities, it is time we collectively acknowledge the mental health crisis and urge that elected officials at the local, state, and federal level take immediate action to advance solutions. It is time we lean into doing the work to fundamentally alter these outcomes for our youth. Children's Hospital Colorado remains committed to partnering with our city and county leaders, our state legislators, our Governor and our federal Congressional delegation to reform and create a system of mental health care our kids deserve."

Mental health crisis impacts every part of Colorado

While this is a crisis on the national, state and local level, it's children, families, schools and providers in each community that are feeling the impact. In the month of September, anywhere from 15 to 40 kids suffering from a mental health crisis came each day into the emergency departments at Children's Colorado. These kids often wait an extended amount of time for placement. The mental health crisis in Colorado impacts every part of our state. Many rural communities feel the epidemic even more acutely than urban and suburban communities because resources are more limited in those areas.

Community pediatricians call for major investments to bring change

"Hospital emergency departments and inpatient units aren't the only places being overwhelmed by youth struggling with mental health crises," said Shen Nagel, MD, pediatrician at Pediatrics West and chair of the board, Pediatric Care Network at Children's Hospital Colorado. "Primary care pediatricians are often the front line when it comes to treating the most pressing issues facing our children and youth. Pediatricians are facing unprecedented numbers of children and youth struggling with anxiety, depression and expressing thoughts of hopelessness and even suicide. We stand with our partners at the Children's Hospital Association, AAP, and AACAP in demanding action. Like our hospital colleagues, primary care providers and our patients need help. This problem is too big to solve on our own. We need major federal, state and local investments to turn this tide and bring about meaningful and sustained change."

"Our children, families and our providers need support to extend the right care, at the right place at the right time," said Ron-Li Liaw, MD, chair of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and chair of the Pediatric Mental Health Institute at Children's Hospital Colorado. "Now, perhaps more than ever before, our children and teens need to have access to the full array of evidenced-based supports and services ranging from preventative care to wrap-around services provided in their homes and communities."

Children's hospitals nationwide report a 45% increase in self-harm cases

"We are facing a significant national mental health crisis in our children and teens which requires urgent action. In the first six months of this year, children's hospitals across the country reported a shocking 45% increase in the number of self-injury and suicide cases in 5- to 17-year-olds compared to the same period in 2019. Together with the AAP and the AACAP we are sounding the alarm on this mental health emergency," stated Amy Knight, president of CHA.

Children's Colorado is working toward solutions alongside partners

Since the state declaration in May, Children's Colorado has worked together with bipartisan local, state and federal lawmakers, and alongside school partners, primary care providers, families and advocates to identify funding and policy solutions to meet the immediate and long-term needs. State lawmakers are currently considering numerous policy and funding proposals that would help address the challenges and redesign the mental health system in Colorado, but the work is far from over.

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