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A Focus on Youth Mental Health

August 24, 2022

During the back-to-school season, behavioral health leaders across the nation are focused on supporting youth mental health and connecting kids to care.

This month, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services reiterated its call to address the nation’s mental health crisis and the challenges for youth stemming from the pandemic.

“Children’s use of health services—from primary and preventive care to childhood vaccinations, dental care, and mental health services—has dropped alarmingly during the COVID-19 public health emergency,” said CMS Administrator Chiquita Brooks-LaSure. “We need to reverse that trend now and expand access to care for eligible children and families.”

Here’s what you need to know:

  • Access to care:  Last week, HHS issued new guidance documents for states about the coverage available for behavioral health services for children through Medicaid, as well as a focus on expanding school-based health care for children.
  • Growing challenge:  Released this month, the 2022 Kids Count Data Book indicated the number of children between 3 and 17 who had anxiety or depression increased from 5.8 mil­lion during 2016 to 7.3 mil­lion during 2020.
  • Loss of loved ones:  By July 2022, more than 200,000 U.S. children had lost a parent or primary caregiver due to COVID-19, the report noted.
  • A call to action:  Last year, U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy issued an advisory to address the nation’s youth mental health crisis, noting the ways COVID-19 had accelerated the challenges for children and the importance of access to high-quality, affordable, and culturally competent mental health care.
  • Quotable:  “The pandemic era’s unfathomable number of deaths, pervasive sense of fear, economic instability, and forced physical distancing from loved ones, friends, and communities have exacerbated the unprecedented stresses young people already faced,” Dr. Murthy said. “It would be a tragedy if we beat back one public health crisis only to allow another to grow in its place.”

Pennsylvania’s 2022–2023 state budget includes new investments in youth mental health, including $100 million in one-time federal funding for schools to provide or contract for behavioral health services for students and another $100 million in one-time federal dollars for school safety initiatives.

HAP is committed to supporting Pennsylvania’s behavioral health crisis across the commonwealth. This includes a focus on expanding behavioral health services so that all Pennsylvanians can access care when and where they need it.

Learn more about our behavioral health advocacy.