The Covid 19 pandemic has had a significant impact on the mental health of children across New Jersey. The people most impacted by Covid-19 are the most vulnerable members of our society. Emergency rooms across New Jersey and the country have been flooded with parents seeking help for children struggling with anxiety, depression and behavioral issues.
Over the past decade the number of children having long stays in the hospital emergency room due to mental health has doubled, according to a study published in this April’s issue of American Academy of Pediatrics. The data also shows that Hispanic communities are particularly vulnerable to having longer lengths of stay in the emergency room, mostly due to understaffed facilities.
There needs to be a task force created to address the racial disparities for mental health treatment, especially with regards to under-allocation of resources to Hispanic community. The lack of resources in poorer communities leads to increased emergency room visits.
Designing programs, including after-school preventative programs, by people with linguistic capacity can help relieve the stress on emergency departments. There is also a lack of assessment instruments that adequately screen and process Hispanic communities’ children struggling with mental health issues in emergency room departments. Additionally, there needs to be an active effort to use telemedicine to allow lower income areas to access clinicians in schools and community healthcare settings.
Hasan Memon M.D, Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist at Garden Psych in Princeton, NJ