Missouri facing pediatric behavioral health crisis; hospitals running out of beds for kids | St. Louis News Headlines

ST. LOUIS (KMOV.com) — Missouri hospitals are struggling to keep up with demand for mental health services for children. The St. Louis Children’s Hospital said it has had to move some children to different floors because the behavioral health unit is full.

Trish Lollo, president of St. Louis Children’s Hospital, said they see between eight and 15 children a day because of behavioral problems, including suicide attempts, eating disorders, anxiety and psychosis.

“It’s absolutely heartbreaking and it’s even scarier for the patients and their families,” Lollo said.

Lollo said that due to high demand, some children have to wait more than 24 hours in the emergency room for a bed to open in the behavior department. Lollo said waiting for the emergency room can make the patient even more anxious.

Parents like Diana Pruitt are concerned about the impact COVID-19 has had on children’s mental health.

“They weren’t able to hang out with their friends, especially my daughter,” Pruitt said.

COVID-19 restrictions, like many other children, made it difficult for her daughter: the school closed, her activities stopped, socialization ground to a halt.

Statistics show that this statewide mental health crisis was already brewing well before the pandemic.

Nationally, the suicide rate for children aged 10 to 24 rose 60 percent from 2007 to 2019. The number of emergency room visits for suicide attempts in children’s hospitals doubled from 2008 to 2015. The coronavirus pandemic exacerbated those troubling trends.

“While COVID-19 was not necessarily the problem, everything we did was to control the spread of the virus, which we believe will have long-lasting effects in the future and ultimately their mental health,” Lollo said. .

The impact is being felt in hospitals across Missouri. SSM Health said the new behavioral health emergency department in northern St. Louis County has seen a more than 50 percent increase in children and adolescents requiring assistance.

Lollo said there are now about 30 percent more children arriving in the emergency room at St. Louis Children’s Hospital compared to pre-pandemic.

She believes that working with other hospitals and agencies is the answer to the mental health crisis.

“By working together, I have hope that we can turn this around,” Lollo said.

There are several resources available for mental health care. Find out more here.

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