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Children mental health cases increase from the pandemic

Apalachee Center's B.E.A.C.H unit helps with demand
Posted at 8:32 AM, May 22, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-22 08:32:47-04

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WTXL) — Over the past year, the Apalachee Center says they've seen a 20-percent increase in children struggling with a mental illness from the pandemic.

With school going online, people working mask and social distance.

"We all have had a lot of changes over the last year and half," Department of Children and Family Services Emily Pritchard.

She said those changes became a tough reality for kids.

"Our kids are going into school and then out or having to spend time quarantining away from their friends so they might not be able to participate and have that peer support that they've had previously," Pritchard said.

President and CEO of Apalachee Center Jay Reeve said this caused increases in depression, anxiety and behavioral issues, admitting many kids to the Apalachee center's B.E.A.C.H unit, which stands for Behavioral Excellence in Children Health.

"It's a children acute patient psychiatric which serves ages 6-18," Reeve said.

He said the program was first established in 2018 because the need increased for children psychiatric care.

From 2017-2019, Reeve said there was a 17 percent climb in cases each year, but in 2020 it was even higher at 20 percent.

"One of the big things we've seen is with the virtual school," Reeve said. "I think one of the things that folks didn't necessarily anticipate with that move was the level of structure that school provides most kids, parents can't do that on a 24-hour bases."

The pandemic also added more stress for parents, increasing the Department of Children and Family Services child abuses cases to more than double.

"These kids are really dealing with the aftermath of what their parents are going through as well," Jamie Adleta, director of the children's psychiatric unit at Apalachee Center, said.

Reeve said the B.E.A.C.H unit helped 555 kids in just the past year alone.

"If your kid broke a bone or had issues with their blood pressure or diabetes, you would not hesitate to take them to the hospital," Adleta said. "If they're struggling with anxiety, depression or any other mental illness, that's why we're here."