Mental Health Services for Youth in the United States

The shooting in Newtown has not only brought up the issue of gun control in the United States, but that of mental health. Many people feel that the culprit, Adam Lanza, had easier access to a gun than to mental health services. Which begs the question: what is the state of mental health services for youth in the United States?

Here are some statistics from a study done in 2008 by the National Center for Children in Poverty that took a serious look at the state of mental health care for children (and others) across the 50 states. People weren't exaggerating. We, as a country need to start providing more accessible (and better) services to those who need them.

  • Almost a quarter of states said that they believe no one with serious mental health problems is getting the adequate care they need.
  • Only seven states provide mental health care across various age groups (toddlers, transitioning adults, etc.)
  • Despite federal initiatives to focus on the outcomes of mental health care, fifteen states still rated their ability for outcomes- based decision-making as rudimentary.
  • Only two states reported having the IT structure to implement progressive mental health care for their patients.
  • For youth in juvenile justice, almost half of the states reported that they restrict Medicaid (public health care) reimbursement for mental health services.
  • Ten states reported that they restrict medicaid reimbursement for mental health services given in child care settings and schools.
  • Only 11 states reported funding for children with mental health conditions across child- serving sectors.
  • Only three states reported having implemented programs that promote cultural and linguistic competence in mental health care.

One of the overarching issues that came up with mental healthcare practitioners across the 50 states was cost. Care was too expensive and the low-income healthcare insurance did not allow for adequate attention. They were stretched thin on every aspect. The doctors didn't even have enough money to do efficient outcomes based care research with modern technology, and the poor families weren't left with many options either with mental healthcare not even being reimbursed when the child received treatment at school.
Let's use this information to push for better mental health care policies across the US (and in Chicago) along with better gun control laws. Nothing is fool-proof, but maybe we can have a presidential term without five mass shootings.

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