Major Hospital System Declares Pediatric Mental Health State of Emergency Over 'Effects of COVID-19-related Stressors'

|
|
Posted: May 26, 2021 9:00 AM
Major Hospital System Declares Pediatric Mental Health State of Emergency Over 'Effects of COVID-19-related Stressors'

Source: AP Photo/Mark Lennihan

A “pediatric mental health state of emergency" has been declared by the Children's Hospital Colorado over a huge spike in mental health crises and suicide attempts due to the "long-term effects of COVID-19-related stressors,” reports Colorado Public Radio.

"Our kids have run out of resilience," said chief medical officer for the hospital David Brumbaugh. "Their tank is empty. That's where we are right now as a system and it's impacting families across our metro area, across our state."

Speaking about the crisis brought Brumbaugh to tears as he recalled speaking with a father whose 9th grader tried to commit suicide after he didn't make the baseball team "near the close of an isolating first year of high school." Brumbaugh's son is the same age and also plays baseball. 

“I’m sorry, but this is what we are feeling as caregivers every day," he said explaining why he was crying. 

In Aurora, the hospital’s 52-bed emergency department has been overrun with children in psychiatric crisis. Mental health emergency visits were up 90% last month compared with April 2019. The hospital’s transport team is seeing three or four kids each week who have just tried to kill themselves. 

The top overall reason children arrive in the emergency department is a suicide attempt. And on any given day, 12 to 24 children are waiting for an in-patient psychiatric bed to become available. 

In Colorado Springs, the hospital built a 24-bed emergency department three years ago and dedicated six locked rooms for behavioral health treatment. Now, children in mental health crisis are filling 12 or 13 beds, and staff are clearing out rooms in the medical units to make them safe for children who arrive saying they are going to kill themselves. 

“The current system is simply unsustainable and it’s failing our children,” said Heidi Baskfield, vice president of population health and advocacy at Children’s. “Our children need us to rally together.” [...] 

Children’s Hospital has ramped up services, hired more mental health staff and is working to add more beds, but the changes aren’t coming fast enough to help the children flooding into the emergency department, Baskfield said.

At the Anschutz Medical Campus in Aurora, the hospital is increasing its in-patient psychiatric beds from 18 to 26 by next March. The campus is also doubling its partial hospitalization program that treats kids for several hours each day, and bumping up beds in its eating disorder unit from 12 to 20. (Colorado Sun)

Jenna Glover from the hospital system’s Pediatric Mental Health Institute said children's development has been interrupted over the past year.

"Despite things getting better in terms of COVID, kids have dealt with chronic stress for the past year that has interrupted their development," Glover said, according to CPR. "Now kids are asked to be starting back into life again, they don't have the resources to do that, they're burnt out and they feel so behind they don't know how to catch up."

Many on Twitter reacted to the report, with some calling what's been done to children during the pandemic a "disgrace."