COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (KRDO) -- Colorado children experiencing mental health crises are being sent out of state for care because pediatric bed space is dwindling.
Children's Hospital Colorado and several other advocacy groups are calling on every official from city council members up to Governor Jared Polis and federal lawmakers to step up and address the urgent, life-threatening risks.
In a roundtable discussion on Tuesday, the groups called for lawmakers to take $150 million in federal funding granted to Colorado through the American Rescue Plan Act and put it toward expanding mental health care for children.
Children's Hospital Colorado said it's currently seeing as many as 40 children in crisis a day, and they do not have enough resources to help them.
“When faced with this current state of emergency, no longer can any elected official respond by saying, ’Not my job,’" Zach Zaslow said.
Suicide is now the leading cause of death among Colorado youth ages 10 to 24.
In 2021, Children's Hospital has admitted more than 5,000 children with mental health crises into their emergency departments across the state.
“Systems are just failing families and kiddos over and over again," parent Jim Weigland said.
Weigland's daughter is one of several Colorado kids who had to seek treatment out of state.
“They basically said we can’t serve her, we don’t have the capability to give her what she needs. We were able to find a placement for her all the way in Georgia," Weigland explained.
Now advocates hope state lawmakers will find ways to allocate more funding for youth mental health care to rebuild what they describe as a broken system.
“Kids in Colorado do make up a third of the population," Dr. Jenna Glover said. "And we’ve partnered with lawmakers and governor polis that at least 1/3 or 150 million dollars of the ARPA funding that are designed to meet the needs of children and youth.”
The group also released a playbook for improving the system, including ways that some city and county governments have previously raised the sales tax to go toward mental health care. Children's Hospital Colorado says the issues will take years to fix but they want sustainable and meaningful action from leaders across the board.
The topic is expected to come up in the next legislative session. The session is set to begin on January 12, 2021.