As millions of children across the United States are heading back to school for the second year under the dark cloud of the Covid pandemic, there’s some good news on the horizon.
Funding for children’s mental health has just been given a big boost from the Biden Administration to the tune of $85 million.
“We know what’s coming,” Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra told the press during an announcement for the funding. “The wave of stress, the mental strain, the disorientation and disassociation that so many of our children are feeling today — they’re going to need help, and not just from their parents and their loved ones, they’re going to need help from us all.”
Mental health professionals, teachers, and parents have all reported an uptick in stress, anxiety, and depression among children of all ages and backgrounds since the pandemic forced nearly all schools to temporarily halt in-person learning. And when schools did begin to reopen amid debates over mask mandates, many children had a new wave of anxiety to grapple with.
“There are so many mixed feelings among parents and kids about going back to school,” Dr. Kyle Monk, a pediatrician at Cedars-Sinai, said. “We’re excited about the benefits of in-person learning, not only because so many of my patients have struggled academically, but because school is really important for kids’ development.”
What’s included in the $85 million funding?
The Biden’ Administration’s $85 million in child mental health funding breaks down with $10.7 million in American Rescue Plan funds from the Health Resources and Services Administration for the Pediatric Mental Health Care Access Program. The program is aimed at training primary care providers in recognizing, treating, and referring children for mental health services.
The bulk of the funding, however, $74.2 million is being distributed through the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration with the purpose of not just raising awareness of mental health issues affecting youth, but training school personnel how to deal with those issues.
Not only are more children now catching Covid than at any previous time during the pandemic, but pediatricians and child psychologists are reporting a surge in children with everything from mild depression to more serious conditions such as eating disorders and suicidal thoughts.
While Dr. Warren Ng, president-elect for the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, stresses that “children are resilient,” he believes the added funding for child mental health services is needed more now than ever — particularly with families who may be hesitant to seek help.
“Because of stigma, there are some families that will never come, at least not easily, to see a child or adolescent psychiatrist or a mental health provider, but they trust their pediatricians, and that’s a relationship that we can leverage to help have that dialogue around your child having anxiety, depression, or suicidal thoughts and actions,” he explained.
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