By Judith Fischer Wollack, president of AACFA
As COVID-19 continues its unpredictable path forward, non-profit, accredited child welfare agencies remain committed to addressing the mental health needs of Michigan’s children and families.
We have seen firsthand how COVID-19 has caused an uptick in the need for mental health care services for children and families, and we are at a critical point for addressing that pent-up demand. Simply put, there are not enough resources for children and families, given the shortage of psychiatric beds in our state and the closure of multiple residential care facilities.
We’ve seen multiple news stories in recent months about children spending days in emergency rooms while they wait for psychiatric beds so they can get the vital mental health support they need to thrive.
The Treatment Advocacy Center, a national nonprofit organization that works to eliminate barriers to mental illness treatment, reports Michigan fails to meet the minimum standard of minimally adequate mental health treatment for individuals with severe mental illness. With tens of thousands of Michiganders diagnosed with severe mental illness we only have hundreds of psychiatric beds available.
It’s not enough to meet the current demand.
Research also shows the mental health of children and teens has been greatly impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. According to research from the Kaiser Family Foundation, 29 percent of parents surveyed in May 2020 said their child’s mental/emotional health was already harmed. That number increased in October 2020, when 31 percent of parents said their child’s mental/emotional health was worse than before the pandemic.
It’s a simple fact that children in Michigan need more mental health support.
Non-profit, accredited child welfare agencies like our sare helping Michigan’s children and families as much as we can through this crisis, but we need more resources in order to meet the demand. We receive 30 percent less funding than state-run child welfare agencies, which spreads our expertise and resources thinner, making it harder to find and retain qualified workers, which only does a disservice to children in our state who are struggling.
As a state, we can and must do better while non-profit, accredited child welfare agencies keep working tirelessly to make sure Michigan’s children and families have the care they deserve through these incredibly difficult times.