(CBS4) — A “shocking” number of young Coloradans have been going to emergency rooms during the pandemic — for behavioral health crises and suicidal ideation. The chief medical officer at Children’s Hospital Colorado says preventing outbreaks and keeping schools open are critical to the physical and mental health of our children.

Dr. David Brumbaugh said the hospital was seeing between 25 and 40 children each day, in late 2021, who were coming to the emergency departments with acute behavioral health crises.

“We cannot forget the health and well being of our youngest Coloradans, you’re still vulnerable on so many different levels emotionally, physically and mentally,” Dr. Brumbaugh warned on Tuesday.

“Here at Children’s Colorado, we’ve seen record record numbers of patients with respiratory illness, including COVID, but also shocking numbers of behavioral health needs in kids,” he emphasized.

File photo of an emergency entrance at a hospital. (credit: (Credit: Thinkstock/Getty Images)

“The next several weeks will be so important for our kids, they’re returning to school this week,” Brumbaugh warned.

He said kids not only learn better when they’re physically present in school, but that in-person learning is critical for the mental health and well being of kids.

“In contrast, when kids are kept out in school, we’ve seen the impacts of acute behavioral health crises and suicidal ideation,” he stated. “Grief can be overwhelming and it’s taking a real toll on our children.”

“The biggest antidote to that is keeping kids in school and keeping them in their normal routines,” he added.

Brumbaugh said masks and vaccinations are key to keeping schools open.

“…mask wearing and vaccination are particularly important when considering the increased transmissibility of the Omicron variant.”

“Omicron has the capability of causing larger school outbreaks amongst children, outbreaks that could potentially lead to school closures and we can prevent those outbreaks by getting kids vaccinated and by kids wearing masks at school,” he added.

H also noted that vaccinated children have less severe COVID symptoms than those children who are not vaccinated.

“We owe it to our kids to do everything we can to keep them safe and healthy. By keeping them in school.”

Brumbaugh said he has two children in Denver Public Schools and got them vaccinated as soon as he could.

“I believe in the science and the integrity of the research behind this vaccine,” he said.

Parents who have questions and concerns about vaccination are encouraged to speak with their child’s pediatrician. There are also multiple parent resources on the hospital website at childrenscolorado.org.