Children’s Mental Health Crisis Needs State Aid

John Banchy, Best Point President & CEO, recently collaborated with New Path Child & Family Solutions, and Lighthouse Youth & Family Services, to encourage the Cincinnati community to advocate on behalf of the youth behavioral health workforce.

Cumulatively, the three organizations represent the largest community-based providers of behavioral health services to children in Cincinnati, serving more than 20,000 at risk children across 139 zip codes.
And currently, Ohio’s mental health sector is facing an uphill battle. While suicide is the second leading cause of heath for youth ages 10-14, the number of Ohio children diagnosed with anxiety and depression jumped to 42%, which is the 10th highest state increase nationwide. There is an insufficient number of licensed foster homes and staffed group care settings resulting in service delays and a placement shortage. Among these three organizations, there are nearly 2,500 children on a wait list for mental health services, with wait times exceeding 90 days.

Aside from a lack of care there is a social economic impact as well. Nationwide Children’s Hospital found 53% of working parents missed at least one day of work to care for their child’s mental health, resulting in affected work performance, lost productivity, an increase in health care costs, and an overall decrease in economic growth. Challenges that organizations face include low insurance and Medicaid reimbursement rates which prevent the hiring of additional clinicians, also resulting in noncompetitive wages and benefits.

The Ohio General Assembly is considering legislation, part of the biennial state budget process, that would provide needed support through key health and human services line items, support which is vital to those served daily. Up for budget consideration, a 20% raise to mental health agency rates, allowing providers to retain and expand the number of therapists and professionals, enabling a quicker rate of care. The bill would also sustain the Student Wellness and Success funding for our schools, which is integral because schools have proven to be a natural, strategic setting for kids to access mental health support. These solutions are urgent and should be a priority to our lawmakers as they finish up Ohio’s 2024-25 operating budget. Investing in children’s mental health is an investment in our state’s future as well as the state’s immediate and long-term economic goals.