There is no shortage of data on the severity of the mental health crisis currently affecting America’s children.
A U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report Nearly 60% of teenage girls will feel sad or hopeless by 2021, according to a February survey, revealing that more than half of LGBQ+ students have recently suffered from a mental health condition. rice field.
another study A paper published in the Journal of the American Medical Association this month found that family financial hardship during the pandemic caused the most stress, sadness and COVID-19-related worries for children.
Illinois has not escaped these harsh realities. The children here will surely suffer as the country grapples with imminent danger. shortage Psychiatrist, psychologist, social worker. Low-income children without private insurance are even more vulnerable. The situation is even worse for youth in the custody of the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services or in foster care, said Cook County public guardian Charles Golbert.
Our state has a 20-year-old program aimed at helping young people who have Medicaid or no insurance at all. Cracks in that system continue to make it difficult for thousands of children experiencing mental health crises (sometimes suicidal) to get the help they need, according to There is
As Golbert told WBEZ, the current mental health crisis, years of staff shortages and a shortage of hospital beds for children requiring intensive care have left the program “totally disrupted.”
Governor JB Pritzker and state officials know they have to do better. Their efforts to repair frayed safety nets must succeed for Illinois’ most vulnerable children.
The shortcomings of the Screening, Assessment and Support Services Program (SASS) need to be addressed. Otherwise, you’re completely stalled when it comes to helping kids who have nowhere else for families to turn to.
As one healthcare provider affiliated with SASS told Karp and Schorsch, today it’s like a Cadillac driving nowhere.
The “ugly” cycle
Too often, children wait too long to be evaluated under SASS, a job outsourced to private contractors. Complaints about children at risk waiting hours just to be evaluated have increased 50% in the past year, WBEZ found, he said. It is unclear whether children receive the mental health support they need. The state has not provided WBEZ with data on screening outcomes for about 40% of the more than 220,000 cases from 2018 to 2022. under SASS.
In addition, treatment appointments and hospital bed wait times, if they occur at all, can take days or weeks. Many hospitals do not accept Medicaid patients.
Many young patients end up being restrained, either physically or by medication, and if they don’t get the help they need, the “ugly” cycle repeats itself, Golbert said.
Late last year, the state launched Pathways to Success, a program that funds community organizations to provide more intensive care coordination and support services for children. The plan is to spend $300 million annually on the program when it is fully implemented.
But we have to ask: Why are some of these services supposed to already be offered by SASS providers?
The devil is in the details. As Golbert said, there must be money and political will to change the status quo. He also said the state switched several years ago from its Medicaid program, which operated on a traditional fee-per-service basis, to a “managed care” system that limits which care providers can access foster parents. He points out that we should admit the mistakes of time.
CONCLUSIONS: Children who do not receive the mental health support they need have a more difficult transition into productive adulthood.
Doing their utmost to ease that transition benefits them and the state of Illinois as a whole.
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