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Doctors seek federal funding due to adolescent mental health crisis

Monroe Carrell Jr. Children's Hospital at Vanderbilt
Posted at 4:05 PM, Oct 25, 2021

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — Doctors have made a Declaration of a National Emergency in Child and Adolescent Mental Health.

It's fueled by a shortage of beds, a lack of providers, and a need for more preventative services.

"So, every day when I'm talking to families, the comments I'm hearing from families is, 'This is certainly not for lack of trying,' said Dr. Heather Kreth, a Vanderbilt psychologist. "These parents are calling different therapist offices, they’re calling different programs, they’re calling different hospitals, they’re calling their insurance companies."

Kreth said many families are also facing waitlists.

"Tennessee ranks about 42nd in the nation for access to mental health resources for youth and adults," Kreth said.

It's something she hopes will get the attention of legislators.

"Suicide is the second leading cause of death for 10 to 24-year-olds in the country," Kreth said.

Doctors are seeking federal funding to help with intervention services to keep young people out of the hospital. "So, they are here at the hospital because they’re not able to locate an in-person psychiatric bed from an emergency room," Kreth said.

They're also concerned about insurance because, for some families, they can't get reimbursed for getting help.

"It’s incredibly stressful, so in the state of Tennessee, if you have a TennCare plan you do have some options for some large mental health agencies that do outpatient therapy or intensive in-home services, but for commercial-based plans, I hear from families every day really struggling to find a provider who takes that insurance," Kreth said.

Most psychiatrists in private practice don't accept insurance. Families must pay, and then they can file a claim with their insurance company as an out-of-network service. In some cases, it deters adolescents from getting help.