AAP, ACEP, and ENA Publish Joint Policy Statement on Pediatric Mental and Behavioral Health Emergencies

  • Published August 31, 2023
sad teen

This month, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), the American College of Emergency Physicians (ACEP), and the Emergency Nurses Association (ENA) published a joint policy statement on the topic of mental and behavioral health (MBH) emergencies for children and youth.

The statement and accompanying technical report addresses the scope of the crisis and offers extensive recommendations. Research shows that while pediatric visits to emergency departments have been stable between 2007 and 2016, visits for self-harm increased 329% and visits for all mental health disorders rose 60%.

Given the increasing incidence of pediatric MBH needs, the statement emphasizes that the health care system has been strained to timely and effectively screen, diagnose, and manage these children. EDs serve as de-facto referral centers for children with MBH, but face challenges with limited resources, including inadequate space and inconsistent and deficient insurance coverage and payment mechanisms for related services.

The policy statement particularly highlights disparities in MBH, noting that certain groups are affected disproportionately by MBH issues. In addition, the statement calls attention to factors such as socioeconomic status, access to quality health care, and environmental conditions, which play a crucial role in shaping the mental and behavioral well-being of young individuals. Recognizing these determinants is essential in creating a holistic approach to MBH emergency management.

“This joint effort by AAP, ACEP, and ENA to provide a united voice and recommendations for clinicians who manage MBH emergencies is a pivotal step in acknowledging and addressing this public health crisis among children and youth,” says Mohsen Saidinejad, MD, MS, MBA, lead author of the publication and a leader in the EMSC Innovation and Improvement Center. “By shedding light on the challenges, disparities, and complexities associated with this issue, these organizations are advocating for improved MBH care outcomes, better resources and mental health infrastructure, and increased awareness of the challenges facing the emergency care community in managing mental and behavioral health emergencies in the younger population.”

Listen to a podcast discussing these reports or learn more here about how the EMSC Program is tackling the challenge of MBH conditions in children.