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Children's hospitals, pediatricians urge Biden to prioritize youth mental health

Children's hospitals, pediatricians urge Biden to prioritize youth mental health
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Children’s hospitals and pediatricians are calling on the Biden administration to prioritize children’s mental, emotional and behavioral health in addressing the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Children’s Hospital Association (CHA) and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) launched an awareness campaign on Wednesday to ask the administration and lawmakers to provide more funds to programs to address the escalating crisis among children and youth. 

The group is seeking increased funding for existing mental and behavioral health programs, through the Department of Health and Human Services’s Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration and Health Resources and Services Administration.

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They also think Congress should provide new funding for activities at the state and local level to support children, like telehealth, training for crisis response and school-based services. 

The digital advertising campaign is expected to run for several weeks with an estimated six-figure budget. 

“Children’s hospitals’ emergency rooms have been inundated with children and youth in severe crisis,” Amy Knight, president of CHA, said in a press release. “With nowhere else for families to turn, these kids are great risk. We must do everything we can to help children and families access critical mental health services now.”

Children’s hospital visits significantly increased this summer during the pandemic with a nearly 20 percent increase in suicide attempts and over 40 percent increase in disruptive behavior disorders. The groups also noted that hospital admissions and emergency room visits for suicide attempts doubled at children’s hospitals from 2008 to 2015.

AAP, which advocates for 67,000 primary care pediatricians, has called for schools to return to in-person learning, arguing that it is critical to students’ well-being. The group released a guidance last month about the role schools play in children’s educational, social, physical and emotional development 

CHA, which represents over 200 children’s hospitals, called on the administration to address the growing mental health crisis in children when Biden was first sworn into office.

The Biden administration has pushed for most schools to open by his 100th day in office but has been inconsistent with messaging. The president said last week that grades K-8 should be in five days a week but press secretary Jen PsakiJen PsakiWhite House sends mixed message on higher taxes The Memo: Biden's five biggest foreign policy challenges Biden eyes bigger US role in global vaccination efforts MORE said students, without specifying K-8 grades, should be in school at least one day a week.