AURORA, Colo. (CBS4) – Children’s Hospital Colorado declared a state of emergency when it comes to pediatric mental health. The hospital’s emergency room is seeing an 80% increase in kids who have attempted suicide and residential treatment facilities are so full kids are being sent out of state for care.
The state’s ten largest residential treatment facilities say they’re now turning away 240 kids on average any given day.
Zach Zaslow with Children’s says, over the last decade, Colorado has lost 1,000 residential treatment beds for kids experiencing a mental health crisis. The supply, he says, has never been lower and the need has never been greater. He says some kids are spending weeks in treatment facilities out of state because they can’t get a bed locally.
“It’s just heart wrenching. It has economic consequences for families, it has social consequences,” he said.
Zaslow says there is space in existing facilities but not enough staff. He’s now asking lawmakers for help. A new bill allocates $100 million for immediate mental health needs in places like jails, community mental health centers and schools, but Zaslow says, “It doesn’t include a penny for residential child care facilities right now.”
Representative Dafna Michaelson Jenet is the sponsor of the bill. She understands the need for more residential care firsthand.
“I sent my son out of state,” she explained to CBS4 Political Specialist Shaun Boyd.
She says lawmakers have set aside $400 million for transformational changes that include additional more residential treatment for kids and adults but, she says, they want to make changes thoughtfully over the next few months.
“My son is 19 next week. 19 years I’ve been in the throes of it and here we are with an opportunity to actually solve the problem instead of put a band aid on it. I have been on my knees with my tears asking for the money we need. Are we going be able to get it? I don’t have the answer,” she said.