GRAND JUNCTION, Colo.
From the start of 2021 through mid October there have been more than 5,000 emergency room visits for children facing a mental health crisis, according to Children’s Hospital Colorado. Jim Wiegand has a daughter that’s been seeking mental health care, but has been running into many obstacles for the care that she needs. “We keep hearing about gaps in mental health services in the state. I don’t see them as gaps, I see them as black holes,” said Wigand.
Two years ago, one out of five pediatric patients reported depression and anxiety. Today, it’s four out of five, according to Four Corners Youth Clinics, and one father’s daughter has been one of those stats since she was four years old. “The county took partial custody of our child. Simply, to get her into residential treatment,” said Wiegand. Wiegand says his daughter went through multiple treatment programs for two and a half years before finding a place to heal out of state. “Off to Georgia Lucy goes, and that was almost 15 months ago. She’s home now. Been home for two months. It was probably the best treatment facility for her to be in aside from it being 1,500 miles away.”
Children’s Hospital Colorado declared a state of emergency for children’s mental health in Colorado back in May, and the problem has only grown. Ashley O’Day is a suicide prevention advocate. “Suicide being the number one cause of death for teenagers, we can’t do it alone,” said O’Day.
Six months after Children’s Hospital Colorado declared a state of emergency for youth mental health, the hospital and other organizations have re-written the emergency response playbook, and since kids make-up a third of the state’s total population, those organizations want a third of the American Rescue Plan Act funds to go towards kids’ mental health services. Zach Zaslow with Children’s Hospital Colorado says, “When faced with this current state of emergency, no longer can any elected official respond by saying, “not my job.””
$150 million would go to strengthen the workforce, expand capacity, secure state funding, and pass more bills to provide more resources across the nation.