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Nearly all children’s hospitals report increase in patients needing mental health services

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The Children’s Hospital Association says most hospitals are worried about a lack of resources for patients with mental health needs. Many are also struggling with labor costs.

The vast majority of children’s hospitals say they are treating more patients requiring mental health services.

Image credit: ©astrosystem - stock.adobe.com

The vast majority of children's hospitals report an increase in the number of pediatric patients with mental health issues. (Image credit: ©astrosystem - stock.adobe.com)

Children’s hospitals have said they’ve seen more kids and teens with depression, substance use and suicide attempts, but a new report from the Children’s Hospital Association sheds more light on the issue.

The association found 94% of children’s hospitals surveyed said they’ve seen an increase in the number of pediatric patients requiring mental healthcare.

More than half of children’s hospitals (58%) surveyed said they are concerned about a lack of mental health resources to care for those patients.

The Children’s Hospital Association says the findings are part of an expansive effort to assess the needs and impact of pediatric hospitals.

The top concern of children’s hospitals in the survey remains high labor costs, with 78% citing that as their top concern. The lack of mental health resources for children emerged as the second leading concern, followed by the national shortage of pediatric health professionals (47%).

Matthew Cook, CEO of the Children’s Hospital Association, said in a statement that pediatric hospitals need more support.

“The results from this report are clear, now more than ever, our country’s policymakers must recognize the value of our acute care children’s hospitals and invest in the highly specialized pediatric workforce that makes this care possible,” Cook said in a statement.

Nearly all children’s hospitals (97%) said they are active in their communities addressing issues that affect the mental health of kids and teens, according to the report.

Leaders of children’s hospitals have warned about the increased number of young people struggling with mental health.

Lawrence Moss, president and CEO of Nemours Children’s Health, told Chief Healthcare Executive® in a recent interview that the increase in pediatric patients with mental health issues has been a problem for years, but it has worsened since the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It is at risk of overwhelming the system,” Moss said. “And yes, we need to as a society, take it seriously and come up with answers.”

Moss says the lack of mental health clinicians trained in treating children is a serious problem. “We just simply do not have enough pediatric psychologists and psychiatrists to treat kids,” Moss said.

Northwell Health has just launched a $500 million initiative to expand pediatric mental health services, including a new building for children and adolescents, connected to its children’s hospital.

“We felt that this was necessary given what's going on in our communities,” Charles Schleien, senior vice president of pediatric services at Northwell, told Chief Healthcare Executive® in November.

The number of mental health hospitalizations more than doubled from 2016 to 2022, according to a report released in May by Clarify Health.

Dozens of healthcare organizations have described the pediatric mental health crisis as a national emergency.


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