February 18, 2021
More than 4,000 children in New York have lost their parent or caregiver to COVID-19, and 325,000 children are newly living in or near poverty. Many don’t know where their next meal will come from, or how they’ll make it through the school year, or if their family will lose their home. They are experiencing profound trauma taking a toll on their mental health.
The pandemic has worsened an already dire situation for child and adolescent behavioral health. Even prior to the pandemic, suicide was the second leading cause of death for New York children ages 15-19, and the third leading cause of death for children 5-14. Statewide surveys show an increase in anxiety and depression among young people, and a growing number of young people are coming to hospitals with dangerous psychiatric emergencies. A disproportionate number of these children come from communities of color — the same communities hit hardest by the pandemic. To make matters worse, we’ve seen a dramatic decline in primary and preventive services across the country, including a 44% decline in child screenings and outpatient mental health services for children enrolled in Medicaid and Child Health Plus from March through May 2020 in comparison to the previous year.