Report: Wisconsin kids of color more likely to face mental health challenges


According to a new report released earlier this month, levels of anxiety and depression among young people in Wisconsin are rising, especially among children of color. The KIDS COUNT 2022 data book, published by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, features 16 indicators of child and family well-being, as well as reports on the mental health needs of young people in the state.

A press release issued by Kids Forward, a Wisconsin-based children’s advocacy organization, said that while all the datasets were deeply concerning, the mental health crisis is not felt equally among white children and colored children in the state. Recent data from 2019-2020 shows that 26% of black children, 60% of Native American children, and 22% of Latino children have been diagnosed or reported as suffering from anxiety or depression in Wisconsin, compared to 15% of white children. Michele Mackey, CEO of Kids Forward, told Madison365 that the COVID-19 pandemic had a significant impact on the data presented.

“As we have heard a lot in the media lately, pediatricians, pediatric nurses and even the Surgeon General of the United States have noted that the pandemic definitely seems to be impacting the mental health of young people. ‘is even more important for children of color,” Mackey says. “What they’ve witnessed is that their communities have been more desperately affected by the COVID pandemic, they’ve lost more people, more members of their family than white families have necessarily lost.”

While the pandemic has had a significant impact on increasing depression or anxiety among children of color, these statistics are not new to Wisconsin, which was singled out as one of the worst performing states. ranked nationwide for racial inequality.

“I think we’ve seen our healthcare system, even before the pandemic, come under tremendous pressure. We know that there are health disparities, that those disparities are not just about access, which is true, but also treatment within the health system and diagnosis for people of color tends to be behind white people. So I think even before the pandemic we were seeing significant health disparities, the pandemic and the challenges facing the health care system have only added to that, Mackey says.

In response to data found in the KIDS COUNT 2022 data book, Kids Forward and the Annie E. Casey Foundation are urging lawmakers to address the mental health issues facing children and families in Wisconsin, as well as to prioritize their needs and ensure that every child has access to trauma-informed and culturally appropriate mental health care. Kids Forward calls on legislators to:

  1. Address children’s mental health by addressing the social determinants of health and economic and racial inequalities. A key lever to address this issue is to increase the earned income tax credit as a percentage of the federal credit from 4% to 16% for parents with one eligible child and from 11% to 25% for parents with two children. eligible from the tax year. 2021. The Earned Income Tax Credit has been shown to be effective in reducing child poverty and behavioral health issues in children, including anxiety and depression.
  2. Increase statewide stable investments in schools; most children have access to mental health care there. One-off funding and grant-based funding streams are not enough.
  3. Expand Medicaid to increase children’s access to mental health and reinvest $1.6 billion in savings to improve Wisconsin’s children’s mental health system.
  4. Increase Medicaid payment for mental health treatment to improve recruitment and retention of mental health professionals.
  5. As part of the Quality Care for Quality Children allocation, provide funding for training and technical assistance to early childhood educators with the goal of reducing instances of children being removed from child care settings by due to behavior problems. Prioritize funding for the fight against lead (paint and pipes) in childcare settings. 30% are in home care. Lead poisoning often leads to behavioral problems, learning disabilities and health problems.
  6. Increase access to contraception and abortion, which are key to ensuring young people can choose when they want to start a family, and key to supporting positive family outcomes.

“Our job is really about providing the data to provide qualitative context, so we talk to people in rural communities of color and listen to their experience,” says Mackey. “So the other thing, you know, that we’re trying to get people to do is read our reports, read reports from other policy centers, contact their legislators and contact their local communities. and to talk to people about these issues.. Because the more of us that understand them, the more of us that care about them, the more we will be able to address some of these issues.


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