Oregon experts discuss ongoing youth mental health crisis in KATU-TV town hall
Access to behavioral and mental health resources cited as major challenge
Our children have been under a lot of pressure the last two years through the COVID-19 pandemic. Life was upended in many ways, affecting youth in particular. Due to safety protocols and quarantines, for example, many young people were not able to walk in their graduation, play the sports they love, or even hang out with their friends at school.
The pandemic’s impact on youth continues to be far greater than many realize. A study conducted by JAMA Pediatrics shows that from 2016 to 2020, the number of children ages 3 to 17 diagnosed with anxiety rose by nearly 30 percent and those with depression by more than 25 percent.
In response to the ongoing youth mental health crisis, KATU-TV hosted a town hall sponsored by Regence with l Dr. James Polo, executive medical director at Regence BlueCross and BlueShield of Oregon; Dr. Erica Aten, director of child and adolescent services at Collective Care Clinic; Stephanie Scovil, a clinical supervisor at Albertina Kerr; and Leslie Rodgers, a behavioral health and wellness specialist at the Beaverton School District.
The panel discussed the mental toll the pandemic has had on youth, access to behavioral health care services, and ways parents and other adults can help. Issues around accessing care are especially challenging as our state ranks near the bottom in providing access to mental and behavioral health care services.
“This is a challenge all across the country,” said Polo. “Do not let provider access get in the way of trying to get help. Don’t give up. You have to keep trying. The first thing you need to do is talk with your family doctor. They may be able to help.”
Polo said the evolution of technology to bring care via telehealth, for example, has helped, especially for those who live in rural areas where a provider may not be nearby.
School was another major topic of discussion, with many wondering if we’ll return to normal and if there will be any long-term impacts on students after nearly two years without in-person learning. “I don’t know that we can go back to a normal,” said Scovil, noting that it’ll be important for students to identify what works for them and to discuss what’s needed from families and teachers. “I think that youth are definitely being faced with a lot of new challenges and, with that, there are new skills to be learned—and that takes time and patience for everybody.”
You can watch the full KATU town hall online.
Regence members can access a spectrum of behavioral health resources
Whether you need occasional emotional support or ongoing mental health care, Regence has a variety of programs to prevent, identify and treat mental health and substance use disorders. Regence members who want to understand what is available under their health plan can sign in to their account on regence.com, or call us for help finding the right behavioral health resources.