From “Commentary: Mental Health Of DC Youth Needs To Be Priority” by Judith Sandalow, executive director of the Children’s Law Center, on WAMU 88.5:
Health care can be the difference between life and death. I’m not talking about a surgeon performing quadruple bypass. I mean mental health services such as therapy, counseling, and medication. [...]
The human and financial cost of not treating mental health disorders is staggering. Nationally, 67 percent of young people in the juvenile justice system have a diagnosable mental health disorder. Last year, 66 percent of children entering foster care in the District were found to have mental health needs. And last year, more than 200 children were sent to residential programs as far away as Texas because DC couldn’t provide intensive in-home support.
Citing the example of an 11-year-old boy who was treated physically, but never mentally, following a drive-by shooting, Sandalow points out that “literally thousands of the District’s children never get needed mental health services” — and mental wounds, like physical wounds, cannot heal if not promptly detected and treated. Moreover, these same wounds have long-term effects, and costs, for both the individuals and communities; thus spending on preventative medicine is, in essence, an investment for the future.
Often, mental health needs are not instantly apparent — like a broken bone or cold. Realizing, understanding, and ultimately responding to these needs require a high level of engagement that is not present in every child’s life. So how can we ensure both proper care and the engagement that leads to it?