Officials at the Colorado Children’s Hospital have declared “a state of emergency in pediatric mental health,” saying their entire system is taxed and experiencing an unprecedented overload of children as young as 8 years old in need. immediate treatment, mainly for suicidal thoughts and attempts.
“We are inundated with children who attempt suicide and suffer from other forms of major mental illness,” said Jena Hausmann, president and CEO of Children’s Hospital Colorado, May 25 in a virtual panel discussion. “There are so many organizations that are equally overwhelmed; the sheer magnitude of this situation warrants a different level of support.
Hausmann issued a “call to action” to Governor Jared Polis, lawmakers and state agencies to prioritize children’s mental health services, release more funds for suicide prevention programs and building resilience, recruiting more providers, increasing system flexibility and reducing bureaucracy in enabling children to access services.
Every day, between a dozen and two dozen children system-wide can wait hours or days to get a behavioral health bed, said Dr David Brumbaugh, chief medical officer of the Children’s Hospital of the. Colorado.
With the bed shortage, Hausman is advocating for communities to receive the support needed to set up emergency centers, much like the shelters that have sprung up for COVID-19 patients, to accommodate the overflow of ‘children who need to be admitted for mental health treatment.
She called on the governor to use decrees and public health decrees to do so.
“It has been devastating to see suicide become the leading killer of Colorado children,” Hausmann said, adding that if things don’t change, more children will be lost to suicide.
Problems related to the pandemic have intensified for Colorado children since January, statistics show.
Colorado Children’s Hospital, which operates 16 emergency, emergency, and specialty centers, saw a 72% system-wide increase in behavioral health emergency department visits from January through April in during the same period in 2019, officials said.
In April alone, the prevalence of acute cases jumped 90% from April 2019, Brumbaugh said.
“It’s almost a doubling for acute behavioral health services,” he said, “and reason # 1 is the suicide attempt, which is extraordinary. “
The main concern is that children develop chronic mental health issues, which will impact their opportunities in life, said Dr Jenna Glover, director of psychology training at Anschutz Medical Campus in Aurora.
“It’s not going to go away next year,” she said.
Children deal with pandemic stress primarily through substance use, withdrawal from normal involvement and eating disorders, she said.
“Children use them to escape their feelings or to try to gain a sense of control because anxiety and depression go untreated,” Glover said.
Gravity is occurring as society emerges from the pandemic as children are expected to resume their lives without the tools to adapt, she said.
“Over the past year, children have faced chronic stress that has interrupted their academic development, their social development, and many feel late and completely unprepared to resume normal functioning,” Glover said. “Now they just have to re-engage in life, and they don’t have the resources. They are roasted. They are hopeless.
Desperation is the No.1 indicator of suicides and suicide attempts among young people, she added.
Suicide among 11- to 17-year-olds in El Paso County has fallen from nine deaths in 2019 to 15 in 2020, according to a report released last month by the county coroner’s office.
Suicide prevention from Pikes Peak in Colorado Springs has seen a steady increase since the start of the pandemic among young people in group and individual therapy, said executive director Cass Walton.
The past three months have brought “an increase,” she said, along with more requests from parents needing help navigating the system, seeking advice on an effective exit plan from a stay in France. hospitalization and create a safe family environment.
The organization has distributed safes, gun locks and post-discharge care kits for teens, Walton said, and added more group sessions to meet needs.
Common threads that emerge include young people struggling with age-related social issues, lack of strong social bonds, and parental rejection of gender and sexuality preferences.
Young people also identify the growing prevalence of suicide among TikTok and Instagram influencers and suicidal thoughts in music as stressors.
“Our young people have access to so much content,” she says. “A few months ago, several of our participants in our program were hit when the link for the man who killed himself on Facebook live was floating around, and parents are starting to report it and realize that their child needs help, which is good. ”
More parents want to take suicide prevention training and participate in support groups, said Walton, a change from two years ago when the organization canceled programs due to low participation .
“Our community is responding to this complex problem,” said Walton, “but it will take time and resources to really get it under control.”
There is an emergency, however, participants at the roundtable said. The Colorado Children’s Hospital emergency airlift team transports three to four teenagers who attempt suicide per week and have requested additional training, officials said.
“We are fully exploited, our beds are full, the supply has not met the demand,” said Brumbaugh.
The Children’s Hospital is expanding several campuses to add beds and inpatient and outpatient mental health services, including in Colorado Springs.
“Our children are strapped for resilience, their reservoir is empty and this is impacting families in our state,” Brumbaugh said. “As a result, we see children who were largely functional, the ground fell out of them. It is a difficult time. “
Between $ 400 million and $ 550 million of Colorado’s $ 3.8 billion reduction in the US federal bailout will be spent on mental and behavioral health programs, according to a proposal released by the governor on Monday. It is not known exactly how much would go to pediatric programs.
In April, Polis signed a bill establishing a new Behavioral Health Public Administration to align, coordinate and integrate state mental health and addiction programs and funding under a single government entity. It includes a budget allocation of $ 9 million for the coming fiscal year.
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