Child Suicides Drive Colorado Hospital to Declare State of Emergency
Posted on Jun 04 2021
On May 25, Jena Hausmann, CEO of Children's Hospital Colorado, in Aurora, Colorado, declared a state of emergency in youth mental health in response to an astronomical increase in pediatric mental health cases, including suicide, which has overwhelmed the institution. From April 2019 to April 2021, the demand for pediatric behavioral health treatment at the hospital system increased by 90%. In Colorado, suicide is now the number one cause of death among youth and occurs in children as young as age 10 years. Christine Crawford, MD, associate medical director of NAMI said that she "commends the CEO of the hospital for making this announcement, because it is outrageous to see what is happening with more and more children with significant psychiatric symptoms who are not getting adequate care." Crawford, who is an assistant professor of psychiatry at Boston University School of Medicine, Boston, Massachusetts, also pointed out that the mental health crisis in youth is not unique to Colorado. "Throughout the country, we've seen these colliding pandemics — inadequate mental health resources for children and COVID-19, which exacerbated the existing mental health crisis," she said. Crawford is "encouraged that we are having more conversations about pediatric mental health, because the pandemic amplified what was already going on and made it impossible to ignore." Policymakers and insurers need to prioritize pediatric mental health when determining allocation of healthcare, said Crawford. "Financial incentives should be provided for hospitals to want to reserve beds for psychiatric patients, and in the outpatient setting, we also need to look at the payment structure of psychiatric visits," she added. Many psychiatrists do not want to accept insurance because of the increased bureaucracy and low reimbursement rates, and families cannot afford to pay out of pocket, "so we really need to look at the insurance issue at a policy level," Crawford said.