CDF-Ohio Testifies in Support of Whole Child Wellbeing and Protecting the Student Wellness and Success Funds in HB 110
May 7, 2021
By Tracy Najera
Yesterday afternoon, I had the opportunity to testify as an interested party on the state’s biennial budget bill, HB 110. In particular, I shared the importance of children’s behavioral and mental health as we recover from this pandemic. For our children to get the help they need to re-engage with their learning, they must be healthy and ready. Here’s an excerpt from my testimony:
In the past year, we’ve read numerous articles and heard from a variety of experts about the concern of learning loss, or unfinished learning, chronic absenteeism, trauma, economic instability, inaccessible broadband, etc. CDF-Ohio partnered with the Ohio Parent Teacher Association to learn about what parents want for their children as they return to face-to-face instruction.
We learned a great deal from our parents, most importantly, that they prioritize the following:
- Behavioral and mental health
- Well-check on basic needs of children and families
- Greater access to technology
- Personalized instruction/smaller teacher to pupil ratio
This is important, because we know from the research that when children are emotionally healthy and have their basic needs met, they are better prepared to learn. According to Child Trends, even prior to the pandemic, nationally one in five children had a diagnosed mental health disorder.1 Further, the report shared the following:
“While research on the pandemic’s effects on mental health is still in the early stages, current evidence shows a surge in anxiety and depression among children and adolescents since the pandemic began, including among young people of color and among lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer and/or questioning (LGBTQ) youth. In addition, almost half of all parents report experiencing higher levels of stress during COVID-19, which increases their children’s risk for experiencing family adversity (e.g., child abuse and neglect, domestic violence) and related mental health problems.”
Last month, Children’s Defense Fund-Ohio in partnership with the Mental Health & Addiction Advocacy Coalition released a first of its kind report on Children’s Behavioral Health in Ohio. In this research we found the following:
- Ohio ranks 46th in the nation for children having three or more ACEs. Minorities are at much higher risk of ACEs than their White peers. 51% of Hispanic children and 61% of Black children have had an adverse childhood experience, compared to 40% of their White peers.
- Globally, 50% of all lifetime cases of mental illness begin by age 14.53
- Nationally, a higher percentage of children and adolescents 12 to 17 years old had a drug use disorder in the past year (3.6%) than adults over 26 years old (2.3%).
- Nationally, an estimated 50-75% percent of youth encountering the juvenile justice system meet criteria for a mental health disorder and 40-80% of incarcerated juveniles have at least one diagnosable mental health disorder.
- In Ohio, rates of teen suicide have spiked 46% over the last four years.
- Although Ohio ranked 13th in access to mental health care for youth, more than half of children who experienced major depression did not receive mental health services and only 33% received consistent treatment.
These disorders can be especially devastating to young people, impacting current health and school success and contributing to serious lifelong consequences impacting their families and their communities.