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Taking steps to battle a children’s mental health crisis

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Nemours
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Children’s hospitals and pediatricians have declared a national state of emergency when it comes to children’s mental health.

Delaware Public Media’s Rebecca Baer recently spoke with the American Academy of Pediatrics’ Delaware chapter president Dr. Kirk Reichard about this crisis and what can be done to address it.

Delaware Public Media's Rebecca Baer interviews Dr. Kirk Reichard, president of the American Academy of Pediatrics’ Delaware chapter.

According to the CDC, last year emergency room visits for mental health emergencies increased 31% among teenagers and 24% for kids 5-11.

Dr.Kirk Reichard, President of the Delaware Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics, says hospitals here are seeing a similar uptick.

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Brad Gellman
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Nemours Children's Health
Dr. Kirk Reichard

"And more alarming we’re beginning to see kids in that age group who actually come with, you know, credible plans for suicide and that is just devastating. That’s not something we used to see,” he said.

Reichard said the pandemic has exacerbated the crisis, pointing to factors like food insecurity and abuse and neglect at home.

“Those are all things that add to the burden of behavioral health problems in kids and that’s only been magnified during the pandemic and then the
fact that there really isn’t a great safety net for most of these kids even in pre-pandemic to screen for these problems and address them early before they become a more major issue,” he said.

On the national level, the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Children’s Hospital Association are advocating for increased funding for mental health screening and treatment through schools and greater
access to outpatient and inpatient behavioral health services.

Rebecca Baer comes Delaware Public Media from The Florida Channel in Tallahassee where she covered state government and produced documentary features for the series, Florida Crossroads.