NORTH TEXAS (CBSDFW.COM) — A biennial report from Children’s Health paints a bleak picture for many young North Texans.
The report “Beyond ABC: Assessing the Well-Being of Children in North Texas” takes a research-based look at key quality of life indicators, including: pediatric health, economic security, safety and education.
In spite of gains in areas — such as teen pregnancy — the report found mental and behavioral health a key area of concern. And it’s one that the report has highlighted in the past: Has increased awareness led to more diagnoses or has the problem worsened?
“It’s a complex problem,” Director of Integrated Behavioral Health for Children’s Health says Jason Isham said. “We are getting better at early detection and early screening… Many pediatricians now start screening at age 11 for depression.”
The report found that over 130,000 North Texas children suffer from an emotional disturbance or addictive disorder.
There was a 143% increase in Collin County children with a mental health diagnosis served by Medicaid Managed Care compared to 2017. And 44% of youth incarcerated in the Texas Juvenile Justice Department system in 2018 had a moderate or severe mental health issue — more than double from three years earlier.
The report also noted that Dallas County saw adolescent suicides increase by 27% in 2016.
And yet, the report acts as a guidepost for where community resources are needed. A previous report prompted Children’s to launch a pilot program in the Carrollton-Farmer’s Branch school district to make mental health care convenient and accessible to students who need it.
“If you grew up in the 70s like I did, and you were bullied at school — you could go home to safe environment,” Isham said. “But, nowadays that bullying will continue online for them.”
So, the pilot program, “Tele-Behavioral Health,” puts solutions online as well.
“They connect with a professional, licensed clinician and they never have to leave campus,” Isham said. “Mom and dad don’t have to take off work, and we minimize the disruption in instructional time.”
In launching the program, Isham said children leveraged existing relationships with trusted partners, and they already had a relationship with Carrollton-Farmer’s Branch to provide remote physical health screenings.
“This is just a win-win for students and their families,” says Jo Gillen with Carrollton-Farmer’s Branch ISD.
She said students are completely at ease visiting with a counselor remotely through video chats, and what simply began as a pilot program at three high schools is now available at every high school and middle school in the district.
“Our students embraced it,” Gillen said. “That’s what they’re comfortable with. So we want to capture them with what they’re comfortable with, and if this helps them get mental health care, we are all for it.”
During the report’s presentation at a luncheon at the Communities Foundation of Texas, the room fell silent as K104 personality Lady Jade shared a video of teens talking with her about their daily struggles.
During the video, half the teens raised their hands when asked if they knew someone who had committed suicide. They also shared that social media postings have driven teens to take their lives.
“We know that they come to us with issues, with fear, and with social media being so prevalent in our culture, they need a way to talk through that,” Gillen said. “It’s another avenue to help them work through what’s going on in the culture today.”