Americans want more mental-health services for children, survey shows
May 1, 2018 | By JoAnne Viviano
A survey released by Nationwide Children’s Hospital on Tuesday shows that 87 percent of Americans believe their communities need more mental-health services for children, including prevention and treatment.
The survey of 2,000 people, conducted by Harris Poll in February and March, was commissioned by the hospital as it constructs a nine-story pediatric mental-health facility for treatment, research, education and training.
Among the 500 parents with children under age 18 who responded, 37 percent said there is child in their life who may need mental-health support. Among barriers to care, they said, are expense (37 percent), insurance coverage (33 percent) and lack of nearby services (26 percent).
Dr. David Axelson, chief of psychiatry and behavioral health at Nationwide Children’s, said the survey confirms what is seen in the clinic.
“It shows that Americans really do appreciate that we need to do more for our kids in this area,” Axelson said. “People who are in charge of health systems, in charge of governmental resources and in charge of community advocacy all need to recognize that we need to meet this challenge.”
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Children’s mental health is an “underfunded and underappreciated” area, he said, and resources need to be put toward achieving insurance coverage for mental-health services that is equal to what is provided for other medical issues.
Mental-health care for children in Ohio, and across the country, has always taken a back seat to the adult system, said Terry Russell, executive director of the Ohio chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness, which was not involved in the survey. He said he receives calls every day from parents who cannot get help for their children.
“As many as 75 percent of kids with diagnosable mental illness get no care at all,” Russell said. “We need to change that.”
Part of the problem is stigma, he said, but that mind-set is beginning to shift.
“We’re seeing somewhat of a change in the new generation of acceptance of the illness like any other. And they know people recover and get better if they get treatment,” Russell said. “Our outcomes are good. We can save kids’ lives.”
Russell hopes the awareness that services are needed will spur government agencies to devote more money to providing those resources.
Behavioral health is a focus of Nationwide Children’s strategic plan, and the hospital hopes to raise awareness and break down stigmas, said Axelson, who also serves as the hospital’s medical director of Big Lots Behavioral Health Services.
The new behavioral health pavilion, which received a $50 million gift from Big Lots and the Big Lots Foundation, will be the nation’s largest center for children’s behavioral-health treatment and research on a pediatric medical campus. Nationwide Children’s expects it will open in 2020.
The facility will house a psychiatric crisis center and observation unit, a crisis-stabilization unit, inpatient care and outpatient programming.
Also key are community- and school-based prevention efforts, including programs that teach signs of suicide ideation, address problems with preschoolers and teach good behaviors, Axelson said.
“We’re really trying to address this from all angles, not just the hospital treatment setting,” he said.