Pennsylvania ranks in the middle among states for the well-being of its children.
The latest Kids Count Data Book from the Annie E. Casey Foundation lists Pennsylvania as 21st overall, and 24th for the number of uninsured children. The report showed the pandemic has brought no shortage of challenges.
Carolyn Myers, director of communications for the Pennsylvania Partnership for Children, said thanks to a federal disenrollment freeze, kids have had uninterrupted health coverage through Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program, which has helped them weather the storm. She pointed out 45% of children in the Keystone State get affordable coverage through the programs.
“Why this is significant with this year’s Data Book release, which has a very heavy focus on youth mental health, is that Medicaid and CHIP coverage ensures that children get regular checkups that include mental health and social, emotional, developmental screenings,” Myers outlined.
Myers added they have seen a record number of children enrolled in Medicaid, and their goal is to ensure they stay covered when the pandemic Public Health Emergency ends. The current end date is Oct. 13, although there is a chance it could be extended.
The percentage of Pennsylvania children with mental-health issues jumped by an even larger amount than it did nationally. The report showed 282,000 children ages three to 17 with depression or anxiety conditions, compared to 226,000 in the previous report.
Leslie Boissiere, vice president of external affairs for the Annie E. Casey Foundation, explained isolation has played a big part in the spike.
“We’re seeing an incredible increase in the number of children and young people who are experiencing anxiety and depression,” Boissiere reported. “Children were struggling with mental health issues prior to the pandemic, and the pandemic absolutely exacerbated that, with schools closing and with lack of access to normal socialization that children would see.”
Each year, the Data Book presents national and state data from 16 indicators in four domains – economic well-being, education, health, and family and community factors, and ranks the states according to how children are faring overall. This year’s report is a mix of pre-pandemic and more recent figures; all are the latest available.