Yesterday, we celebrated Labor Day. A day set aside to pay tribute to all those who work to make the world go round. A fitting time to shout out a heartfelt thank you to all of our partners and providers in children’s mental health who work tirelessly every day to support children and youth with mental health challenges. As well as the countless families across our state whose endless work supporting and advocating for their kids’ mental health needs and ensuring they have access to the services and supports they need often feels like or is a full time job…
Labor Day also marks the unofficial end to summer. A signal that fall is surely on its way. Many have already returned to the classroom and even the trees are starting to change. Fall 2022 is already looking like a busy, colorful and exciting time for all with a return to in-person learning and other spaces and faces we have all missed and most exciting for us the return of the ACMH Fall Conference which will be held November 9th at the Kellogg Hotel and Conference Center on the campus of Michigan State University.
This year’s conference theme is We Shall Overcome: Advocacy to Activism. Which seems a fitting call to action at this particular moment in time as we stand in the midst of a national crisis in children’s mental health. Indeed, the need to join together and act now to more effectively meet the needs of children, youth and young adults with emotional, behavioral and mental health challenges is great in our state, currently ranked 27th in the nation for youth mental health by Mental Health America; Where historical barriers to access and capacity coupled with increasing numbers of children and youth with emerging or escalating mental health needs and 2+ years of pandemic related disruption to essential regular and preventive community based mental health care and school and community supports has flooded an existing gap between the number of children and youth needing services and those receiving it. Leaving countless youth and families struggling to get the basic care and support they need.
In fact, the majority of families of kids with emerging mental health needs contacting ACMH report being unable to locate available providers and parents of youth with existing needs including those who have received intensive home-based services in the past sharing they are now unable to access many of the critical supports they and their kids rely on, including those services they find most helpful to their ability to keep them safe and supported in their homes such as respite, CLS, crisis and home and community-based services. Inevitably these un-met needs, absent supports, or long delays getting connected often lead to escalating mental health challenges and increased need and demand for already scarce intensive or crisis services and/or inpatient care. And most recently we have begun to hear from some families of kids in crisis that instead of getting connected to mental health treatment or supports when they reach out for help, they are instead being advised to contact the police, CPS or directed to try the justice or child welfare systems as possible avenues to get their kids the support they need. Which should be simply unacceptable to us all and a sure sign it is time to make a change.
Indeed, the time to act is now! As we join together to address the increasing challenges we face, it is also important to remember that accessing mental health care or the level of services and supports their children need has been an ongoing challenge for many Michigan families for years. Even prior to the pandemic existing barriers such as inadequate resources, uneven service arrays, and severe shortages in behavioral health providers have left many without critical supports they need. These problems are not new and solving them will not be easy.
It will take time, dedication and perseverance of many and the expertise of all us especially that of youth and families whose lived experience likely holds the key to real and long lasting change!
Indeed the time to join together in advocacy and activism is now. It will not be easy… but deep in our heart, we do believe ~ We Shall Overcome and Change is finally Gonna Come!