Amid COVID-19, more children are going to the emergency room for mental health-related issues, according to a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
For children ages 5 to 11, mental health-related visits were up 24% year-over-year for the period from March to October. Meanwhile, mental health ER visits for adolescents between the ages of 12 and 17 were up 32% compared to the same period a year earlier.
The uncertainty and social isolation of the COVID-19 pandemic are likely to blame for the spike, according to the report. It comes at a time when hospital emergency departments are already overburdened.
“The majority of EDs lack adequate capacity to treat pediatric mental health concerns, potentially increasing demand on systems already stressed by the COVID-19 pandemic,” the authors of the report wrote. “These findings demonstrate continued need for mental health care for children during the pandemic and highlight the importance of expanding mental health services, such as telemental health and technology-based solutions.”
Even pre-pandemic, the pediatric behavioral health market has always been “woefully overlooked,” according to Emily Melton, who is the co-founder and managing partner of Threshold Ventures, an early-stage venture capital firm.
That’s why Threshold recently co-led a $20 million Series A funding round for Brightline, a virtual pediatric behavioral health care startup.
Founded in 2019, Brightline only started treating patients in June of 2020, with coronavirus-related demand causing the provider to roll out services four months ahead of schedule. At first, it was only treating children in California, but by August, it had started expanding those services.
Its quick growth supports what the CDC said its report: Pediatric mental services are as important as ever.
“The need for a comprehensive solution-based approach was substantial before the pandemic and has only been exacerbated by the current crisis,” Melton said in an August press release announcing the news. “Brightline’s cross-disciplinary team is uniquely capable of delivering science-backed behavioral and mental health care for children leveraging virtual solutions that are equally accessible and effective. Brightline has the right solution for this unique time—recognizing that mental health is a family affair.”