Speak Up Focus Issues: Mental Health

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Speak Up Focus Issues: Mental Health

Despite the much-needed attention placed on our focus issues of obesity, oral health, and injury, Speak Up for Kids also feels strongly about the need to improve child mental health services and awareness in Wisconsin.

Children with mental health problems among the most underserved populations in the state. It is estimated that more than 100,000 school-age children and youth in Wisconsin have a serious mental health disorder, but only a small fraction of these youth receive needed mental health services. 

Out of all the states in the country, Wisconsin ranks 48th for children ages 0-12 and 47th for children ages 13-17 in its efforts to treat children with serious emotional disabilities.⊃1; This indicates a dire need for improved policies and approaches to treating children with mental health problems in Wisconsin.

UW Health and American Family Children's Hospital are committed to providing the resources necessary to find ways to improve child mental health in Wisconsin. In 2011, UW Health participated in a community-wide effort to do just this, and as part of the Dane County Council to Improve Behavioral Health, we made these recommendations⊃2;:

  • Integrate behavioral health screening and care into primary healthcare screenings
  • Improve system navigation for matching patients to providers
  • Improve access to psychiatrists for appropriate medication consultation and services
  • Practice "trauma informed care", or providing care with a comprehensive understanding of the psychological impact of trauma on children, youth, and their families

Although American Family Children's Hospital strives to provide the best possible care to every child who walks through our doors. Pediatric psychiatry program specialists recognize the emotional challenges faced by children and adolescents, including those who have chronic illness or traumatic injury. Our staff offers a full range of psychological services to help children confront and cope with the difficulties common to many children. We also routinely meet with patients and families to provide the support and guidance children and families need during hospital stays.

⊃1; US Dept. of Health and Human Services, Center for Mental Health Services, 2009 data
⊃2; From the "Improving Behavioral Health in Dane County" task force presentation, June 2011