An increase in mental health problems and homelessness

The effects of the COVID-19 pandemic may have waned in certain sectors, but Vermont children are still feeling the growing impacts on mental health and homelessness.

Homelessness and mental health trends worried those who compiled data for the 2022 “State of Vermont Children” report by Building Bright Futures, which serves as the state’s early childhood advisory board.

Some of the data was for 2022 and others compared recent readings to those before the pandemic as a way to understand the effects of the public health emergency on families and children in Vermont.

Sharp rise in mental health issues in preschool and primary age

Between 2018 and 2021, Vermont saw a 60% increase in children ages 3 to 8 with a mental, emotional, or behavioral health condition. These conditions may have manifested as anxiety, depression, or behavioral and behavioral problems.

Of all youth in this age group, 8.7% required services in 2018, compared to 13.8% as of the end of the 2020-2021 school year. The nation maintained an 8% number between 2016 and 2021, which makes Vermont’s stats even more impressive.

There is ample anecdotal evidence showing that more children need mental health services than before, Dora Levinson, director of research and data at Building Bright Futures, said in a briefing on the report. The severity of their needs is also increasing.

Additional data in the report showed a link between areas where fewer children received routine mental health services and an increase in the number of calls to crisis care. Levinson also said that preventative care can go a long way in helping, however, that federal programs like Medicaid and Mental Health Services Block Grant only pay for services where the diagnosis was established.

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