COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (KRDO) -- A local mental health expert describes a rise in the number of teens with suicidal ideations flooding Colorado emergency rooms.
Briana Severine, the founder of Sanare Psychosocial Rehabilitation, says the COVID-19 pandemic wreaked havoc on teen mental health, including increasing mental health disorders.
While more young Coloradans are struggling, Severine says the resources are dwindling.
The rise in teen suicide is flooding emergency rooms due to a lack of resources for adolescents.
In June 2021, Children's Hospital Colorado told 13 Investigates they were forced to send kids out of the state to receive care.
"Currently we're actually shipping kids, our own kids in need, out-of-state to get care. So, at a time when they would benefit most from being in a place where they have family, support structures and familiarity is the exact moment when we are making them leave all of those things," Heidi Baskfield with Children's Hospital told 13 Investigates.
Across the state there has been a decline in treatment facilities— 30% in 2020 to be exact according to the 2020 National Mental Health Services Survey —which means emergency rooms across the country are taking a hit to housing suicidal teens overnight, maxing out their capacity.
Mental health experts say the crisis is growing by the day as new data shows more suicidal children are spending the night in Colorado hospitals.
"Crisis is real it is not hyperbole, we are really in high levels of need and they need a level of care that we haven't rebuilt successfully yet," said Becky Miller with the Colorado Association of Family and Children's agencies.
Only a handful of facilities in Colorado serve the highest levels of care for teens struggling with mental health issues.
And in the past year, four cornerstone agencies shut down. Now, there are 1,500 fewer beds available for teens.
"Between the four facilities that we closed we lost a combined total of 250 years experience serving Colorado kids," said Miller.
Becky Miller with the Colorado Association of Family and Children's Agencies says the primary reason for the closures is labor shortages.
"I know in the legislature this year several bills were passed that would create funding to create new beds, but the hard part is going to be finding people to staff those beds," said Miller.
Another reason for the closure of those facilities is the low reimbursement rates paid by Medicaid, the state insurance program.
The daily Medicaid rate in Colorado was roughly $400 from 2006 to 2021, per therapeutic residential bed which experts say isn't nearly enough.
"It comes down to finances and insurance funding and lobbying and having insurance companies increase their rates of reimbursement--- what I really hate is when parents say 'I can't send my kids to treatment, I just can't afford it," said Severine, founder of Sanare Psychosocial Rehabilitation.
According to the El Paso County Health Department, the number of teen suicides in the county decreased in 2021 from 2020.
However, they tell us this is still a crisis that they are closely monitoring.