Legislation introduced for mental health, 988 named for suicide prevention lifeline |

Two recently introduced mental health efforts are hailed by local leaders in the Valley.

U.S. Senators Bob Casey (D-Pa.) and Bill Cassidy (R-La.) last week introduced a bill to support children and teens with mental health issues or addictions. Additionally, 988 has been designated as the new three-digit dialing code that will route callers to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.

This legislation is essential to better support children and teens, said Adrienne Mael, president and CEO of Greater Susquehanna Valley United Way.

According to the latest data from the Pennsylvania Youth Survey (PAYS), “a number of scientific studies have identified a link between mental health problems, such as depression, and the use of ATOD (alcohol, tobacco and other drugs) during adolescence. Depression is the main risk factor for suicide in adolescents, an amplified risk in adolescents who self-medicate with ATODs. Among young people aged 10 to 24, suicide is the second leading cause of death, claiming nearly 6,500 lives each year. Although suicide is a public health issue, suicidal thoughts and attempts are even more common among young people. »

“These data tell us that more needs to be done to support young people,” Mael said. “The bill proposed by Senators Casey and Cassidy is an excellent starting point to ensure that children and young people have adequate access to care and connections to the community. Locally, we encourage anyone interested in supporting youth mental health to join area providers on July 29 for a roundtable to discuss what can be done. Please contact Greater Susquehanna Valley United Way at athomas@gsvuw.org for time and location information.

Bernadette Boerckel, outreach manager for the Central Susquehanna Intermediate Unit (CSIU), said the topics addressed in the Health Care Capacity Act for Pediatric Mental Health are directly aligned with the needs of regional schools and communities. CSIU health systems.

“The logic model and goals for the CSIU Region Mental Health and Resilience Community of Practice currently seek to leverage supports for many of these topics,” Boerckel said. “These include increased access to mental health services for students and families – including telehealth; more partial hospitalization and day treatment options for intense cases so that emergency rooms do not have to be used, community outreach and treatment for pediatric substance abuse (this need is confirmed in our COUNTRY data), trauma-informed trainings for healthcare workers and educators, and stronger communication and collaboration between behavioral health services and school systems.

According to a press release from Casey and Cassidy, the investments would go towards making treatment more accessible, training healthcare workers and strengthening partnerships between healthcare providers and communities.

“For many young people struggling with mental health or addiction issues, the pandemic has exacerbated the daily challenges they face. It has never been clearer: we need to close the many gaps in mental health care for children. This legislation would intensify efforts to expand the workforce that provides this crucial care while improving resources for children who need care in their communities,” Casey said.

“The pandemic has had an unprecedented impact on the mental health of our children,” Cassidy said. “This bill closes the gaps in the pediatric mental health system, so that no child falls through the cracks.”

Grant programs established by the Pediatric Mental Health Care Capacity Act would fund efforts to improve the integration of behavioral health, the practice of coordination of physical and mental health services, and community resources. . It would also support the collection of data on behavioral health care needs and modernize and improve mental health services through telehealth and multiple sites of care.

William Brecker, Northumberland County Children’s Mental Health Program Specialist, County Behavioral Health and Developmental Disability Services, said the legislation was a good thing.

“As a specialist in the children’s mental health program, I obviously support any mental health or addictions legislation,” Brecker said. “However, I continue to be discouraged by the amount of attention that is not devoted, in my professional opinion, to the most significant contributing factor to mental illness in children; child abuse/neglect. I think our outdated child protection laws allow children to be raised in traumatic and sometimes horrific home environments.

Dawn Zeiger, associate vice president of Danville’s Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Health, said the youth mental health crisis is unprecedented nationally and is especially challenging locally in rural communities.

“We are working as quickly as possible to bring needed psychiatry and pediatric therapy to communities that have been underserved,” Zeiger said. “Fortunately, telemedicine has allowed us to augment the locally available workforce by recruiting psychiatrists and therapists from outside central PA to provide care in our local communities. We still have a lot of work to do to meet the needs and build a full continuum of care and we support legislation that funds the expansion of access and the behavioral health workforce that we need so much need.

988 phone line

While some regions can currently connect to the Lifeline by dialing 988, this dialing code will be available to everyone across the United States starting July 16, according to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.

When people call, text or chat with 988, they will be connected to trained counselors who are part of the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline’s existing network. These trained counselors will listen, understand how their issues affect them, provide support and connect them to resources if needed, according to the organization.

Lifeline’s current phone number (1-800-273-8255) will always remain available for those in emotional distress or in a suicidal crisis, even after the nationwide launch of 988.

Lifeline’s network of more than 200 crisis centers has been operational since 2005 and has proven successful. The counselors at these local crisis centers respond to the contacts that Lifeline receives every day. Numerous studies have shown that callers feel less suicidal, less depressed, less overwhelmed, and more optimistic after speaking with a Lifeline counselor.

“When an individual is in crisis, having quick resources is crucial,” Mael said. “Having a quick connection to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is a wonderful step in the right direction. Locally, you can call CMSU’s TAPline crisis number 24/7 if you are in Snyder Counties, Union, Columbia or Montour at 1-800-222-9016 In Northumberland County the 24/7 crisis number is 1-844-337-3224 These are numbers I recommend putting on the fridge or back up to your phone, because you never know when you or someone you love might need that kind of support.