NewsLocal News


'We're in a national emergency' | Cincinnati Children's prioritizing mental health care for all its residents

Child mental health stats about psychiatrists
Posted at 5:42 PM, May 25, 2023
and last updated 2023-05-25 17:42:39-04

CINCINNATI — May marks Mental Health Awareness month and WCPO 9 is teaming up with Cincinnati Children's to explore the issues and innovations when it comes to the mental health of kids. The hospital's division director of psychiatry says America is in the midst of a children's mental health crisis.

"We're in a national emergency," Dr. Michael Sorter said.

Sorter is just one of just 10,597 child psychiatrists across the U.S. It sounds like more than enough – but Dr. Sorter says 1 in 5 kids are diagnosed with some kind of mental health condition.

"The demand on the system is much bigger," he said.

State data from The American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry shows Ohio only has about 13 practicing child & adolescent psychiatrists per 100,000 kids.

In Kentucky, it's 10 per 100,000 kids and Indiana has 7 per 100,000 children.

And the Tri-State isn't alone in dealing with this: 86% of the U.S. has a severe shortage of child psychiatrists.

"We're one of the biggest providers in the country for this and you can really look at almost every pediatric E.R. in the country, the same problem is there," Dr. Sorter said. "Kids who are in crisis aren't getting the care they need and are waiting."

There have always been a smaller number of residents who go into the field of child psychiatry. Just last year – the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology issued more than 1,800 certificates in psychiatry. The board issued a quarter of that for the sub-specialty of child and adolescent psychiatry.

Pair that staffing shortage with issues like the opioid crisis and the COVID-19 pandemic, and it's a recipe for disaster.

"There hasn't been that type of way to address that to really heal those wounds yet," Dr. Sorter said. "So we're really seeing things kind of escalate in many ways in regards to anxiety, depression, problems with kids developing, and really meeting the challenges of school and social interaction."

He warns the consequences are dire if we don't get this under control.

"Worst outcomes are of course young people dying. And suicide has really been increasing over time and is now the 2nd leading cause of death in young people," he said.

But with Cincinnati Children's adding mandated mental health curriculum for its pediatric residents and building a new state of the art behavioral health facility set to open later this year, Sorter says he's hopeful more parents will seek help that actually have the resources for their children.

"That acceptance that we're seeing that's more global really gives me cause for optimism," Dr. Sorter said.

If you need help finding mental health resources for your child, you can call Cincinnati Children's Psychiatric Intake Response Center (PIRC) at 513-636-4124. If it's after hours, you can call the National Suicide and Crisis Lifeline at 988.

Watch Live:

News Refresh