The mental health needs of children are urgent. According to the CDC, 1 in 5 U.S. children were experiencing mental health challenges even before the COVID–19 pandemic. These issues have led to a 60% increase in suicide among 10- to 24-year-olds since 2007, which is the second-leading cause of death among this age group. As a result, last year the U.S. Surgeon General declared youth mental health a national crisis.

Our elected officials have recognized and responded to this pressing situation. When Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf signed his final annual budget in July, he provided more than just much-needed financial support for our state’s educators, mental health services, and under-served families. He and the bipartisan legislature that approved the budget also provided a roadmap that prioritizes programs which help our most at-risk citizens — and, most crucially, our children, who need more support than ever in the pandemic era.

Pennsylvania’s next budget boosts investment in education by $1.8 billion, including $100 million for special education. It also includes $100 million for school-based mental health services, $105 million for violence intervention and prevention programs, and another $100 million for adult mental health services.

Providing mental health services for children and teens can help them regain the self-control and confidence they need to learn, heal, and grow. Investing in these programs today will likely mean fewer instances of depression, violence, and self-harm among Pennsylvania’s youth. It also means these children will grow up feeling heard, and knowing that their challenges deserve our attention and support, rather than having to suffer in silence.

Likewise, increasing support for adult mental health means that more parents and adult family members can receive the help they need, which has a net positive effect on the children in their lives.

The same is true when it comes to education. By increasing special needs funding, children who need extra assistance in school can actually receive it instead of falling through the cracks and potentially exiting the education system altogether. With this support, special needs students can receive the help they need to achieve success in school as well as later in life.

I am extremely grateful that our legislative leaders realize that providing for the needs of our most vulnerable neighbors — and especially our most at-risk children — is a vital part of any future-focused plan AND Bradley is here to help.

Lisa R. Fox
Chief Executive Officer