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Mental health issues most common admission reason now at Dayton Children's

Springfield News-Sun - 9/28/2022

Sep. 28—More than 900 children have been admitted to Dayton Children's Hospital this year with depression or suicidal thoughts, and mental health issues are now the most common reason for admission, a doctor at the hospital said.

And the children admitted to the hospital's behavioral health unit for mental health reasons often return, said Dayton Children's Hospital's Dr. Kelly Blankenship.

"There are so few mental health services in the community and the need is so great that right now when kids leave our behavioral unit, one in seven return in about 30 days," she said.

The Montgomery County Alcohol, Drug Addiction and Mental Health Services Board is working to promote better mental health throughout the community. As part of that effort, it received a $400,000 grant from the federal government to promote Black youth mental health.

The organization is matching the grant and the money will be put toward programs to identify children who have lived through experiences that might put them at a higher risk for mental health problems, said Tristyn Ball, director of prevention and early intervention at ADAMHS.

"This grant really gives us an opportunity to be intentional about addressing what we call 'adverse childhood experiences (ACE)' or childhood trauma," Ball said.

The Montgomery County ADAMHS board will launch ACEs Aware, an approach to improve mental health by increasing access to screenings. A child's ACE score is calculated by the number of events that child has lived through that could impact his or her mental health including being abused or neglected. Experts have found that children who have higher ACE scores are more likely to attempt suicide, have suicidal ideation or harm themselves.

"While we may not be able to prevent those traumas right here in the moment, we can use these dollars to put in some interventions to prevent any stress or any kind of health conditions that we could see come from that such as behavioral health issues (and) addiction," Ball said.

The local board was one of eight organizations chosen by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Office of Minority Health for the grant. A doctor with the minority health office said in a statement that over the last 10 years, Black children under 13 years old are twice as likely to die by suicide than their white peers.

"As we're looking at community and having so much discourse around racial equity, health equity and those pieces of this puzzle, it gives us an opportunity to really raise the volume of the conversation for a better understanding of how trauma impacts some communities differently," ADAMHS Executive Director Helen Jones-Kelley said. "And certainly with this grant, we will be able to get at those stressors and some things that occur in households to give people a better opportunity for a successful trajectory."

About 1,100 children were admitted to Dayton Children's Hospital behavioral health unit last year with suicidal ideation, data shows. As of Sept. 26, 912 children have been admitted to the hospital with suicidal ideation. October through December often has a high rate of admissions to the behavioral health unit, a hospital spokesperson said.

Dr. Blankenship said children being admitted to the local hospital are often suffering from mental health problems because of stress and conflict in their lives. Examples are being bullied or having issues with people in their families, she said.

"Then the kids don't know how to work through that conflict," Blankenship said. "They don't have the coping skills that allow them to help work through their feelings."


By the Numbers

Patients admitted to Dayton Children's Hospital behavioral health unit with suicidal ideation

2019- 424 (unit opened in July)

2020 — 972

2021- 1,097

2022 Jan — Sept. 26 — 912

Source: Dayton Children's Hospital


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