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Mid-Missouri schools offering resources to students to combat ‘mental health crisis’


Mid-Missouri schools are hiring counselors and are partnering with local mental health clinics, to combat what child and adolescent psychiatrists are calling a mental health crisis.

"It's nationally been touted as a mental health crisis for children and adolescents in general," said child and adolescent psychiatrist, Laine Young-Walker. "Part of that is just that, the change that has happened in our world, over the last two years with COVID and how it has impacted in so many different ways financially, uncertainties, all of that."

Young-Walker said there has been a rise in depression and a rise in anxiety in children over the last couple of years.

According to the American Counseling Association Knowledge Center, "[a] survey of 9,000 homes reveals that about half of all Americans will meet some sort of diagnostic criteria for a mental disorder," with most diagnoses typically happening during childhood or adolescence.

According to the ACA, 61% of attackers in 2015 had a history of suicidal attempts, and "had a documented history of experiencing symptoms of extreme depression or desperation, prior to an attack."

Nearly all of the United States is experiencing a staffing shortage of qualified Child and Adolescent Psychiatrists (CAPs), according to the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. In Missouri there are 168 CAPs, which equates to 12 CAPs for every 100,000 children.

In March, President Joe Biden announced a strategy to address the national mental health crisis as part of his First State of the Union. A statement from the White House said more than one-third of Americans live in an area experiencing a mental health professional shortage. In response, Biden's administration announced that it will be awarding money to increase access to mental health services in schools.

Governor Mike Parson included $955 million dollars to to support Missouri's mental health care providers and health care providers.

Because of this funding, Jefferson City School District Superintendent Bryan McGraw said it has allowed the district to expand student resources.

"We've actually upgraded this school year, we've partnered with a new organization that will provide additional mental health services," said McGraw.

The Jefferson City School District is not the only school district to have partnered with local mental health care providers. California R-1 Superintendent Daniel Williams said his district has also partnered with a local mental health service.

"We have a memorandum of understanding with that facility, where they will come and provide mental health services to our students as well," said Williams. He also said the school district hired new counselors, and they now have two counselors in each of their school buildings.

Fulton 58 Public Schools Superintendent Ty Crain said in 2018 the community passed a tax levy to pay for similar services.

"A big part of that levy was to ensure that we're able to provide social workers and homeschool liaisons in each of our buildings to be able to address students' social-emotional needs and mental health," said Crain.

According to the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, Boone County is the only county in Missouri with enough psychiatrists to meet demand.

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Marina Diaz

Marina is a Multimedia Journalist for ABC 17 News, she is originally from Denver, Colorado. She went to Missouri Valley College where she played lacrosse and basketball, and anchored her school’s newscast.


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