“When the pandemic first hit, we saw a rise in severe cases in crisis evaluation,’’ as kids struggled with “their whole world shutting down,’’ said Christine Certain, a mental health counselor who works with Orlando Health’s Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children. ‘’Now, as we see the world opening back up, … it’s asking these kids to make a huge shift again.’’
At some children’s hospitals, psychiatric cases have remained high throughout the pandemic; others have seen a more recent surge.
At Wolfson Children’ Hospital in Jacksonville, Florida, behavioral unit admissions for kids in crisis aged 13 and younger have been soaring since 2020 and are on pace to reach 230 this year, more than four times higher than in 2019, said hospital psychologist Terrie Andrews. For older teens, admissions were up to five times higher than usual last year and remained elevated as of last month.
At Dayton Children’s Hospital in Ohio, admissions to the mental health unit increased by 30% from July 2020 through May, totaling almost 1,300. The hospital doubled the number of available beds to 24 and dropped the minimum age for treatment to 9 years from 12 years, said Dr. John Duby, a hospital vice president.
“The overwhelming demand for pediatric mental health services is putting an unprecedented strain on pediatric facilities, primary care, schools and community-based organizations that support kids’ well-being,” said Amy Knight, president of the Children’s Hospital Association.
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