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New Initiative to Tackle K-12 Mental Health Emergency Room Visit Spike

Tonisha Johnson, Spectrum News 1 |

Nearly a year into the pandemic, the struggles kids ages 5 to 17 face are showing up in emergency rooms. “Everyone is experiencing significantly higher depression, anxiety scans (and) are worried about what’s happening,” said Cricket Meehan, director of Miami University’s Center for School Based Mental Health Programs.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports mental health-related emergency room visits nationwide jumped from March to October of 2020. There was a 31% increase for children ages 12-17 and a 24% increase for children ages 5-11. That’s compared to the same time frame in 2019.

So now, a group led by Cricket Meehan from Miami University’s Center for School Based Mental Health Programs is tackling the problem head on. They’re starting with the help of $6 million from the Governor’s Emergency Education Relief Fund through the Ohio School Wellness Initiative.

The plan is to:

  • implement a student assistance program (SAP) that connects students to substance abuse and mental health services;
  • strengthen early intervention for substance use, mental health and behavioral health concerns;
  • promote mental wellness among educators.

“The staff wellness has been an afterthought, if it’s even talked about. And so this project, that’s a priority,” said Kathy Oberlin, director of the Ohio Mental Health Network for School Success, who is working with Meehan. She said the needs for staff will cover a wide range.

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