WASHINGTON (NEXSTAR) – Lawmakers are exploring the problems and solutions to youth mental health issues which have reached crisis levels during the pandemic.
One big hurdle in getting help for those young people is insurance barriers.
In addition to the youth mental health crisis, Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) said there’s also a real problem in how long it takes to receive treatment.
“America’s approach to mental health care is way out of whack, and it starts failing America’s young people early on,” Wyden said.
The pandemic caused a jump in self-harm and suicide attempts in young people.
“A five year in the emergency department who disclosed suicidal feelings of plans to run into traffic, in reaction to her parents’ job loss, financial stresses and her mother’s depression,” psychiatrist Dr. Tami Benton explained.
Doctors said part of the challenge is private health insurance companies don’t treat mental health the same as physical health problems.
That leads to patients being stuck in the wrong health care settings for months.
“Emergency room boarding often creates more distress, decompensation in psychiatric symptoms, and increased traumatic exposure,” Jodie L. Lubarsky of Seacoast Mental Health Center explained.
Experts say government-funded health care is a problem too and low Medicare reimbursement rates contribute to staffing shortages.
There are also challenges reaching kids in rural areas.
“Adolescent psychiatrists in my state – they’re in the cities, they’re not in the rural areas,” Senator Bill Cassidy (R-LA) said.
Experts say schools and telehealth services can fill that crucial gap but need more resources.
Lawmakers vow to develop real solutions.
“We’re going to mobilize the Congress, for these fundamental reforms,” Senator Wyden said.