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Calls about children with multiple mental health disorders rising in Mississippi
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Center for Advancement of Youth at UMMC
UMMC

The number of children in Mississippi suffering from multiple mental health disorders has risen throughout the pandemic, and experts are assessing how the state can meet this demand.

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Demand for mental health care for children has risen throughout the pandemic according to a new study from the University of Mississippi Medical Center. Dr. Dustin Sarver is Clinical Director of Child Access to Mental Health and Psychiatry, also known as CHAMP. The group works with 25% of pediatric care providers across the state to offer psychiatric care assistance. Dr. Sarver says the pandemic has affected the lives of all children here in the state, especially when it disrupted the ability to get together socially either in or out of classrooms.

“We instead had to isolate and socially distance, and I think a lot of that fractured some of those basic, those core connections that support mental health. Those stressors have just combined and a lot of other stress in terms of financial problems the families may have had, or the family concerns based on covid such as having a family member die.”

Around 11% of all calls made to CHAMP are for children with multiple mental health disorders, such as depression, anxiety and anger outbursts. The study was conducted in partnership with a similar program at John Hopkins University in Maryland where doctors found that rate to be more than 40%. Dr. Sarver says Mississippi’s numbers are likely an under-calculation of children suffering from mental illness due to a lack of access to care.

“Certainly I think when we look at our current data of the number of kids with multiple diagnoses that are  being called, we have seen it grow the 11% reported in that study, so it’s continued to increase in ours, and it’s probably more comparable to Maryland right now.”

Dr. Sarver says CHAMP will continue to work with pediatric offices throughout the state to make psychiatric services available to patients in rural and underserved areas.