Children in Missouri are facing unprecedented levels of anxiety and depression - that's according to the 2022 KIDS COUNT Data Book released August 8 by the Annie E. Casey Foundation. The 2022 report finds mental health is a concern across the country, as kids felt the pressures from COVID-19. Nationally, nearly 12% of children had anxiety or depression, while in Missouri it was about 11%.
Tracy Greever-Rice, program director of Missouri KIDS COUNT for the Family and Community Trust (FACT), said it's crucial that kids have accessto mental-health care. "In metropolitan areas we have clusters of mental and behavioral health professionals," said Greever-Rice. "But in more rural areas access becomes more of a challenge and becomes impacted by non-clinical things like transportation."
She added that affordable health-coverage options, either through private insurance or Medicaid, also is key to ensuring access to care. About 6% of Missouri kids lack health insurance, according to the report. Missouri showed improvement in all of the report's economic indicators, including a lower child poverty rate than the national average.
Leslie Boissiere - vice president for external affairs with the Casey Foundation - said the federal government has offered supports, such as additional food assistance during the pandemic, but notes that help is likely to expire soon.
"It's incredibly important that decisionmakers seize the opportunity and the lessons learned during the COVID-19 period," said Boissiere, "when more resources were provided to families. So that we can make sure that every child has their basic needs met and that the overall well-being of children increases."
Areas for concern for Missouri in the KIDS COUNT data include fourth grade reading proficiency and eighth-grade math proficiency, as well as the percentage of low-birth weight babies, and youths who are overweight or obese.
Greever-Rice said these are areas where good short-term and long-term policies can make a big difference in kids' lives as they mature into adulthood. "Attentiveness to these issues will make a big difference and prevention is not just good for individuals," said Greever-Rice, "but also more efficient and a less expensive way to do public policy. "
According to the report, Missouri ranks 27th overall for child well-being among the 50 states.
Click HERE to review the 2022 KIDS COUNT Data Book.