Yesterday was Children's Mental Health Awareness Day, and I'd like to take this opportunity to talk about what an exciting time it is for children's mental health in Oregon.
Through coordinated care and the integration of behavioral and physical health care, we are creating a system where we treat the whole child – mind and body.
We are keeping families together by helping parents learn how to create healthy relationships with their children and teaching children the skills they need to succeed in life.
We are bringing mental health, child welfare, juvenile justice, and education systems together to meet the complex needs of children in foster care and other vulnerable youth.
Oregon is leading the nation in innovative ways to identify and treat psychosis in young adults so they are not defined by their illness and can go on to pursue their hopes and dreams.
Together, we are building strong partnerships with peer-run organizations, because when children, youth and families are able to connect with others who have walked in their shoes, they can have hope that they can get through it too.
These are all wonderful things, but we need to do more. One in eight children in Oregon suffers from a mental disorder, and of those kids who need treatment, only about 25 percent receive the services they need. Imagine if firefighters in your community responded only 25 percent of the time and in every neighborhood houses were burned to the ground because no one was there to help.
This is too important to ignore. We must continue efforts to provide services that meet children, youth and families where their need is – whether its therapy, a peer mentor or a safe place to live – to create more stable environments and brighter futures.
We must reduce the stigma that comes with mental illness and create communities where seeking mental health treatment for a child is no different than seeing a doctor for diabetes or asthma. Mental health screenings should be as routine as annual checkups.
Children's Mental Health Awareness Day is an opportunity to learn more about the issues Oregon's children face. By increasing our understanding, we can all be ambassadors for children's mental health.