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Children and mental health in Colorado
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By Joseph Rios

The importance of mental health and emotional wellbeing may be more prevalent than ever in today’s society. Pop culture has played a role in emphasizing the role mental health can play in our lives as well as some workplaces, schools and more.

In Colorado, there is a shortage of mental health providers, even for children who need attention.

According to a state bill that has made its way through the House Public Health Care & Human Services Committee, Colorado needs around 438 early childhood mental health consultants.

That bill, sponsored by Rep. Emily Sirota, a Democrat who represents Denver, would direct the Department of Human Services to design, implement and operate a statewide program of early childhood mental health consultation. The program would serve a purpose of supporting mental health care throughout Colorado in early childhood settings and practices.

The program would be designed to increase the number of qualified and appropriately trained early childhood mental health consultants for on-site mental health services, the bill reads. Additionally, the mental health consultants would support early childhood settings and practices from when a child is in the prenatal period until they are eight years old, according to the bill.

If passed, the State Department of Human Services would collaborate with the Department of Health Care Policy and Financing to explore some funding for the program. The State Department of Human Services would be required to gather data for the program and make reports on the program to the joint budget committee of the general assembly, the bill reads.

According to the Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University, the wellbeing of one’s mental health is built early in life as early experiences. Those experiences include children’s relationships with peers, teachers, caregivers, relatives and parents.

Harvard says mental health problems in young children can have severe consequences that can impact a child’s ability in regard to early learning, social competence and lifelong physical health. Mental health issues like anxiety disorders, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, conduct disorder, depression, post traumatic stress disorder, conduct disorder, depression, post traumatic stress disorder and neurodevelopmental disabilities can surface at a young age, Harvard says.

Research from the university has found that young children respond and process emotional experiences and traumatic episodes that are different than older children and adults. Thus, it is difficult to diagnose young children at a young age with a mental health issue.

According to the state of Colorado’s Department of Public Health and Environment, one in five children in the country experience a mental disorder in any given year. The mental health disorder that has the highest impact on children in Colorado is anxiety, according Colorado’s Department of Public Health and Environment.





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