Washington DC (July 13, 2022) – Today, executives and leading mental health experts from children’s hospitals across the country, including John Walkup, MD, Chair, Pritzker Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Health at Lurie Children’s, are traveling to Washington, D.C. to call on Congress and the administration to comprehensively address the mental health emergency in our children and youth. They will meet with HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra, Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy, congressional committees' leadership and members of Congress.
The discussions come at a time when bipartisan mental health solutions are top of mind for many in Congress working to enhance support for children’s mental health and follows the Surgeon General’s advisory last year stressing the urgent need to address issues impacting our children’s mental health. Children’s hospital leaders will share frontline experiences of patients, families and staff and explain the resources still needed from congressional and HHS leaders.
One area of focus will be on strengthening the pediatric behavioral health workforce, including community-based and professional resources. There is a need for robust funding for the Children’s Hospital Graduate Medical Education (CHGME) program, which currently only receives half of the federal funding compared to the Medicare GME program.
“Pediatric psychiatric and behavioral health providers and staff, who were already overextended, have experienced further stress and trauma during the pandemic as the system continues to be overwhelmed” said Dr. John Walkup. “As a society, we urgently need to expand our capacity to care for more children and adolescents needing acute psychiatric and behavioral health care. We need to support their families. We need to support the faculty and staff who care for them. Behavioral health care workers have been taking on higher caseloads of more acutely ill, often aggressive patients, working longer hours and suffering from the stressors, trauma, and health effects of both the work and the pandemic itself.”
Leaders will also impress upon lawmakers the urgency to act by sharing sobering realities in their hospitals.
Throughout the pandemic, Lurie Children’s has been on the front line of the children’s mental health crisis. The pandemic exacerbated the behavioral health needs of children and adolescents.
“Our Emergency Dept has experienced a 20 percent increase in children seeking psychiatric care and our 12-bed inpatient psych unit has been consistently full with numerous children and adolescents waiting in medical beds as no beds are available in our community,” said Walkup. “About 20 percent of all kids have a mental health condition before graduating from high school. Only half of those children in Illinois get some form of evaluation or treatment. The patchwork of services available to support the mental health needs of our most vulnerable children has always been strained, but the pandemic has revealed how broken our current systems is.”
About Lurie Children’s
Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago is ranked as one of the nation’s top children’s hospitals by U.S. News & World Report. It is the pediatric training ground for Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. Last year, the hospital served more than 223,000 children from 48 states and 49 countries. Over half of patients are insured by Medicaid.
About Children's Hospital Association
The Children’s Hospital Association is the national voice of more than 200 children’s hospitals, advancing child health through innovation in the quality, cost and delivery of care. Follow us on Facebook @childrenshospitals and Twitter @hospitals4kids.