mental health

Connecticut Hospitals Seeing Surge In Behavioral Health Cases Among Children

Emergency Room visits are spiking as families seek treatment for a wide range of mental health conditions.

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Rising at a startling rate, hospitals around the state are seeing a rapid increase in children needing behavioral health treatment. Depression and anxiety have become prevalent. It’s become a concern for families and hospitals alike.

Earlier this week, the Department of Public Health was at Connecticut Children’s. They are working with them to monitor the situation and provide guidance during this surge.  The medical center says what it is seeing now is about two and half times what it experienced pre-pandemic.

“Any given day we would have 20 plus children in the emergency room waiting for placement. That was very difficult. But now that number has escalated to being in the 40s,” said Connecticut Children’s CEO James Shmerling.

The Connecticut Department of Health has taken notice. In a statement, they said they visited Connecticut Children’s this weekend and are in the process of trying to identify options for patients 16 and older at other hospitals with appropriate psychiatric services.

The issue is one facing many hospitals around the state. Yale New Haven Children’s Hospital is managing a similar volume of cases.

“This is a crisis and we’re going to have to manage it from a triage perspective. Just like we’ve done during Covid,” said Cynthia Sparer, executive director of Yale New Haven Children’s Hospital.

Hospital officials say this is an issue they saw developing for a while and has only been made worse by the pandemic.

“What’s happened is children have been isolated at home,” said Shmerling. “Social isolation has not been good for them.”

With hospitals around the state facing high volumes, the CEO of the Child Health & Development Institute points to another option for help instead of a hospital visit.

“If you’re under the age of 18 in the state of Connecticut you can access Mobile Crisis by calling 211,” said Child Health & Development Institute CEO Jeff Vanderploeg.

If you are in crisis, and you live in Connecticut, you can call 2-1-1 and press 1 for help. If you are outside Connecticut you can call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255 or reach out to the Crisis Text Line by texting 'Home' to 741741.

Mobile crisis is a state-funded service that people can access by calling 211 and following the prompts to child services. Jeff Vanderploeg explains that independently licensed clinical social workers will come directly to the situation, usually within an hour.

“What they’re very skilled at is being able to stabilize a very difficult situation and really address immediate need in crisis,” said Vanderploeg.

Vanderploeg says the service alleviates strain on hospitals too because some children with mild to moderate needs can be identified, eliminating the need for an emergency room visit.

Solutions are something hospitals around the state are seeking. Yale New Haven Children’s Hospital says it is seeing between 50 and 60 cases a day.

“The problem is real and we are going to have to take a long-term view to come up with solutions,” said Sparer.

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