At Texas hospital, ER sees 800% spike in children with mental health crises

Texas Children's Hospital in Houston has experienced an 800 percent increase for mental health services since before the pandemic, according to information the hospital shared with Becker's Nov. 17.

Currently, about 400 to 450 children and adolescents are showing up at three Texas Children's emergency centers in Houston monthly for help with a behavioral health crisis, Karin Price, PhD, chief of psychology at Texas Children's, told the Houston Chronicle. That's compared to fewer than 50 children monthly in 2019. Children are seeking help for issues such as suicidal ideation, suicide attempts and aggressive behavior.

Dr. Price told the Houston Chronicle that more children are also waiting for standard outpatient care and presenting to their primary care provider with concerns about anxiety, depression and other mental health issues.

"We are seeing increased demand at truly every single access point into our system," she told the publication.

The situation at Texas Children's represents the increased number of children in need of mental healthcare in the U.S. Pediatricians and psychiatrists declared a children's mental health crisis in October 2021, and HHS recently announced it would award nearly $27 million to improve and expand mental healthcare for children.

In an email to Becker's, Dr. Price said Texas Children's is taking a preventive community-based approach to the pediatric mental health needed.

"We are working with school districts and our Texas Children's Pediatrics offices across Texas to provide education and psychologists in doctors' offices where kids may first bring up mental health concerns like anxiety and depression," she said.

Dr. Price also said the hospital has more than 60 pediatrician offices, three urgent care clinics and three hospital campuses to serve the increased patient need for behavioral health assistance.

Additionally, employees of Texas Children's recently attended suicide prevention training. 

Read the full Houston Chronicle article here

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