New Jersey youth seeking hospital care for mental health diagnoses such as depression, anxiety, self-harm and eating disorders remains elevated well beyond pre-pandemic levels, according to a new data brief from the New Jersey Hospital Association.
The increase, first identified in 2020 emergency department data, continued in NJHA’s analysis of 2021 hospital visits. The new analysis by NJHA’s Center for Health Analytics, Research and Transformation (CHART) includes hospital inpatient data for the first time, showing that the degree of mental health illness among this age group is driving an increase in inpatient hospital admissions.
“We are witnessing the extended impact of the pandemic years on the demand for mental health services,” said NJHA President and CEO Cathy Bennett. “The emergency department is very often the first point of contact for youths in mental health crisis, but now we see that journey continuing into inpatient care in our hospitals. This is an important early indicator of the need for better access to mental health services for New Jersey’s youth.”
Recognizing the challenges this presents to many New Jersey families, NJHA has produced a reference sheet for parents of children struggling with mental health issues.
Called ‘What Should I Do?’, the resource aims to simplify the process for parents seeking help by identifying the various settings for mental health care, questions to ask and links to services. It’s available online at www.njha.com/what-should-I-do and as a printable PDF for families to save as a resource.
NJHA’s analysis reviewed hospital claims data for both emergency department visits and inpatient admissions for ages 12 to 17 over a five-year period spanning 2017 through 2021. CHART’s analysis looked specifically at changes from 2019 – the last pre-pandemic year – and the most recently available data for 2021. While some of the emergency room data stabilized – albeit at elevated levels – from 2020 and 2021, the hospitalizations continued to increase in 2021 in four areas:
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