The Campaign for Healthy Minds Healthy Kids in a letter released this week to top New York officials urged them to stem the tide of child behavioral health providers from leaving the state.
The letter to Gov. Kathy Hochul, the state Department of Health and the Office of Mental Health comes after Ellis Hospital in Schenectady this week temporarily closed its inpatient child mental health unit amid staffing shortages.
New York is already facing a shortage of these providers and the Schenectady closure is part of a broader trend in the state, the group said.
"Despite the clear and evident shortage of children’s behavioral health providers, the state is on the verge of experiencing a significant decline in provider capacity by allowing the expiration of diagnostic authority for certain licensed mental health professionals," the group wrote in the letter. "We believe it is urgent that state leaders prevent the expiration of this authority and ensure that LMHPs do not face new, additional barriers to performing within their scope of practice."
This problem is also arising after two years of the disruption of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has led to increased rates of anxiety, depression and substance abuse. More than 7,000 children have lost a parent or a caregiver to COVID-19 in New York state, and about 325,000 kids are facing or in poverty.
"Children are experiencing serious emotional distress, yet have been unable to access adequate primary and preventive services, resulting in stark increases of psychiatric symptomatology and hospitalizations," the letter stated. "This has created a perfect storm that is impacting all children, and disproportionately impacting low-income communities and families of color."