What does the mental health crisis mean for Ohio children?

Lena Weib

Our children are not okay.

The pandemic highlighted a childhood mental health crisis that has led national organizations to call for an emergency declaration and led the U.S. Surgeon General to issue an advisory citing alarming increases in youth mental health challenges.

In February, the U.S. House Ways and Means Committee held a special hearing on “America’s Mental Health Crisis,” where I had the honor to provide testimony on its impact on children and the workforce.

More:Nowhere to turn: Families are overwhelmed as kids’ mental health needs go unmet

Recently, Gov. Mike DeWine called for more community–based mental health services in his State of the State address.

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How do we know children are not OK? 

Also in February, Public Children Services Association of Ohio released a survey of representative county children services agencies showing that nearly 1 in 4 (24%) kids who came into custody last year did so primarily due to significant mental health needs, developmental/intellectual disabilities or as a diversion from juvenile corrections.

More:Gov. Mike DeWine touts Intel deal, economic growth in his State of State address

Angela Sausser is executive director of the Public Children Services Association of Ohio. Previously, she served as chief of the Bureau of Children and Families for the Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services and as director of Ohio Family and Children First Cabinet Council. Sausser graduated from Ohio State University with a Master of Arts in Public Policy and Management and a Master of Social Work in Social Administration.

Finding appropriate and available placements for these youth has led to a crisis impacting county children services agencies across Ohio.

These kids entered foster care last year, not primarily because of abuse or neglect but because children services has become the system of last resort.

Ohio needs more community-based alternatives that could better serve youth at home, as DeWine touched on in his speech.

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