This season almost everyone is encouraged to get his or her kids a flu shot. For many, it’s the best prevention method against getting sick. Millions of people line up to get a shot without much of a second thought. Trends like this are common when it comes to looking out for our children’s physical health. So why is it that preventative methods for protecting our mental health aren’t taken just as seriously?
Healthcare is a hotly debated topic in our country. Here at Thompson we firmly believe that mental health be taken just as seriously as our physical health. With that being said, we’ve got a fairly great need on our hands here in Mecklenburg County.
To shed some perspective, there were 182,929 children ages 5-17 years in Mecklenburg County in 2016. Of those children, 10,294 used Medicaid for mental healthcare.
This isn’t new information to the community. Mental disorders are recognized as the leading cause of disability in the US for ages 15-44. In fact, the 2017 Mecklenburg Community Health Assessment ranked mental health as the number one community health issue.
The mental health epidemic is eating away at the youth in America, manifesting itself as school-based violence, increased suicide rates and bullying, depression, and other effects resulting from the milieu of mental illness.
Yet half of all Americans STILL do not seek mental health treatment due to stigma or a lack of access to care.
With 11% of Mecklenburg County residents uninsured, what are we doing to ensure the safety of mind and body for our youth?
I challenge us, as active participants in our community, to consider the positive effects of reformed health care emphasizing inclusivity and comprehensive mental health coverage. Consider the benefits of early intervention and advocate for infant mental health coverage (ages 0-5). Take a critical look at your child’s school-based services and consider the benefits of added resources. These ever-growing gaps in treatment and coverage are prohibiting us from doing the best for our children.
With the midterm elections one week away, these are key issues on our minds here at Thompson. As it stands, North Carolina has currently not expanded Medicaid coverage. If it were to be expanded, Governor Cooper estimates 624,000 residents would become newly eligible for coverage, 208,000 of which are currently in the “coverage gap”.
I acknowledge the strides that have been made. The $35 million allocated to school safety efforts (including mental health initiatives) in the NC General Assembly FY 2018-19 budget will undoubtedly bring great things to our schools. But when the spark of progress has been ignited the worst possible thing we could do is deprive it of its oxygen. We must continue to learn and reform along with the growing research landscape. We must finish strong and invest in quality services for our children.