January 28, 2020
ALBANY, NY (WRGB) Child welfare advocates from across New York put mental health front and center at the Capitol on Tuesday.
Rallying on the Million Dollar Staircase, advocates with “The Campaign for Healthy Minds, Healthy Kids” called on the state to ensure all New York children receive behavioral health care they need.
Lawmakers also joined advocates to demand that the state puts a stop to all cuts to children’s behavioral health care.
“The governor proposed budget seeks to make substantial cuts to children’s behavioral health services and at a time when the teen suicide rate is climbing higher than ever,” said Ronald Richter, CEO & Executive Director of JCCA.
According to the CDC, the suicide rate in New York increased by 28.8-percent between 1999 and 2016.
“Suicide is the second leading cause of death in teenagers and it’s getting more and more prominent, younger and younger, and ii all races of kids,” said Jennifer Havens, MD, NYC Health and Hospitals and NYU Langone Health.
Havens says that if left untreated, mental health issues can lead to devastating consequences that impacts the child’s education and livelihood.
“They don’t succeed in school. They have problems with substance abuse. They have problems in their interpersonal relationships. They have problems working. They have problems functioning. It’s across-the-board very disabling,” said Havens.
“Most of the money in our mental health system is going into the adult side and if we get kids when they are young and give them the services they need, they might not end up on the adult side,” explained Havens.
Advocates also argue that by addressing mental and behavioral issues in children, it’ll save in adult healthcare costs in the future.
“We know that the Adverse Childhood Experiences survey show that if we invest in behavioral health services for children we will save money in adult healthcare costs,” said Richter.
“The best way to prevent cancer, heart disease, diabetes, and other costly illnesses is to invest in children’s behavioral health,” Richter added.
Shane Bargy, the Executive Director of the Boys & Girls Club of Schenectady, said he sees first hand how children with mental health problems often deal with behavioral issues and have a harder time learning.
“Especially with children, who are experiencing these issues through absolutely no fault of their own, they need these resources, they need these services or they cannot be successful in many cases,” said Bargy. “The mental health of a child is as important as the physical health of a child. “They need both in order to be successful people in life.”