Oregon kids in crisis are not getting the help they need!

PROBLEM: There are not enough beds – or therapists – in the state for children with the most intense needs.

by Amelia Templeton.

Many teens experience depression and anxiety and might go through a brief period of crisis, like a bad break-up or an episode of bullying. The pandemic turned up the volume on all of those problems, worsening already long wait lists for child and adolescent therapists.

The state must shore up services to keep these real, but manageable, problems from becoming critical. Increasing school counseling services, running the 988 youth line and investing in the behavioral health workforce are all likely to help.

But a subset of young people face much more serious headwinds and need much more help. These are kids and teens who are growing up while dealing with profound pain and stress: Homelessness, a serious mental illness, a developmental disability, experiences of abuse and neglect or some combination of all of it.

And kids are falling through some of the worst gaps in Oregon’s mental health care system. Those gaps were created in the past 20 years, in part, by the state’s efforts to save money and increase the efficiency of the Medicaid program.