Governor Gary R. Herbert Proclaims May 21, 2020 as Children's Mental Health Awareness Day in Utah

SALT LAKE CITY, UTAH (May 21, 2020) – Governor Gary Herbert proclaims May 21, 2020 Children’s Mental Health Awareness Day in Utah. Governor Herbert points to the importance of early childhood mental health care and the need for a state-wide examination of current systems. At a press conference highlighting children’s mental health awareness, Lt. Governor Spencer Cox added, “By focusing on early intervention in mental health treatment, we hope to fortify the overall well-being of generations of Utahns and see health care savings to our state for years to come.”

In conjunction with the Governor’s proclamation, The Children’s Center announced the development of a landmark study underway in partnership with the University of Utah’s Kem C. Gardner Policy Institute. Sponsored by Cambia Health Foundation, Intermountain Healthcare, Larry H. and Gail Miller Family Foundation, Utah Association of Counties, Utah Department of Human Services, and Utah Hospital Association, this study will provide a current snapshot of mental health services for young children in our state, examining risk, reach, available resources, and return on investment. This study will guide entities in supporting mental health treatment for young children throughout the state.

Ann Silverberg Williamson, the Executive Director of The Department of Human Services shared, “We are proud to be supporting this strong public-private partnership creating a foundation for our state’s mental health care systems, armed with this valuable and timely information.”

Dave Baldridge, Chief Operations Officer at CHG Healthcare and Chair of the Board of Trustees at The Children’s Center added, “This study is the first of its kind and will provide a foundation, a clear picture, and a common understanding of children’s mental health throughout our state.”

May is National Mental Health Awareness Month, a time to direct our thoughts toward the mental health of all individuals. Specifically, we set aside May 21 as a time to focus on upstream measures to address the well-being of children and families in Utah. Research shows that adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) increase the risk of poor health and social outcomes in later life. However, outcomes prove that evidence-based and trauma-informed treatments improve resilience and mitigate serious financial costs and long-term effects including school drop-out, unemployment, involvement with the criminal justice system, and loss of life to suicide, the leading cause of death for Utahns ages 10 to 17.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, families are experiencing not only concern for physical health, but also due to consequences of necessary social distancing precautions, job insecurity, separation from schools and churches, disruption of family schedules, and increased isolation, there is a heightened concern for the mental well-being of children and families across our state.

The impact of COVID-19 has also been felt by mental health facilities across the state. For over 57 years, The Children’s Center has been providing in-person mental health treatment for children and families. Like so many organizations in the wake of this pandemic, they followed the Stay Home, Stay Safe directive for the safety of their clients and employees. This meant changing the way The Children’s Center had been doing things for decades in a matter of days. More than 85% of clients have opted-in to their telehealth platform, an early indication of the success, and an endorsement of the critical importance of therapy in the lives of our clients as they endure a crisis.

Philanthropic support is needed now more than ever, and organizations like The Children’s Center are working hard to fill gaps in supporting continued provision of children’s mental health services to those disproportionately affected by the pandemic.

Rebecca Dutson, CEO of The Children’s Center stated, "More than ever before, there is a tremendous need for these services throughout our communities. With our decades of experience and expertise in serving children ages 0-6 and their families, we are prepared to mitigate the effects of our mental health crisis now exacerbated by COVID-19. Our forthcoming study will help create a baseline understanding among mental health professionals serving young children and families, key community leaders, and lawmakers to more fully address those needs now, and for years to come.”

The Children’s Center Board Member and Cambia Health Foundation’s Director of Operations, Kathleen Pitcher Tobey added, “The importance of meeting the mental and behavioral health needs of all children, especially during times of crisis and uncertainty, cannot be overstated.  We know these services provided by organizations like The Children’s Center have a profound impact on children, their families, and the overall health of our community.”

Additional information about The Children’s Center can be found at childrenscenterutah.org.

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About The Children’s Center

The mission of The Children's Center is to provide comprehensive mental health care to enhance the emotional well-being of infants, toddlers, preschoolers, and their families. As the regional experts in children’s mental health, The Children’s Center offers individual and family therapy for mental and behavioral health challenges facing young children, as well as treatment for trauma exposure and programs for children diagnosed with autism. For more information, visit www.childrenscenter.org.