Since the COVID-19 pandemic first impacted Westchester in March 2020, the public health crisis and accompanying economic downturn pushed an additional 14,000 Westchester children and 325,000 NYS children and counting into or near poverty, according to the United Hospital Fund’s report, “COVID-19 Ripple Effect.” Loss, financial hardship, and isolation were traumatic experiences that quickly made mental health and remote learning priorities for Westchester’s children and families.
As remote learning began for students across New York State, 140,000 households with children did not have reliable access to a device and 130,000 households with children did not have reliable access to an internet connection, according to the United Hospital Fund’s report referenced above. WCA’s own Remote Learning Parent Survey from May 2020 received nearly 1,000 responses from Westchester parents and highlighted challenges related to digital access and education equity. The results revealed that of students with device and internet access, one-third shared a device used for schoolwork and nearly 50% experienced frequent internet interruptions. There is an ongoing need for “digital training” and WCA with our remote learning and digital access partners will pick up on this in September.
Children’s Mental Health
Additionally, remote learning and the many months of separation from friends and loved ones brought their own mental health challenges for children and their families. With many students experiencing increased anxiety and distress about school attendance and safety throughout the pandemic, Westchester’s Department of Community Mental Health and community partners across the county have consistently seen an increased need for mental health support among children. Mental health clinics and crisis programs across Westchester have witnessed increased usage and longer waitlists. There have also been increased requests for students to receive special education services, hospitalizations, and requests for out-of-home placements – many for youth who have never received any of these services before – as well as more serious suicide attempts among children.
Westchester is following national trends, highlighted in Morgan Stanley Alliance for Children’s Mental Health Reemergence report. In partnership, WCA is planning an invitation-only, round table on adolescent mental health to be held this fall.
Just as parents, community members, and loved ones aim to support their children’s education, the same efforts are crucial for their children’s mental health as we all return back to school this year. While WCA’s Remote Learning Advocacy Agenda and partners’ efforts ensured most families received enhanced access to digital devices and internet connectivity, a healthy return to school also requires supporting children’s mental health – both during school hours and outside of them. Check in about your child’s mental health, like their physical health and schoolwork, and try your best to address their needs as soon as possible.
We include a resource list from the New York State Department of Mental Health, which features:
- NY Project Hope: COVID-19 Emotional Support Hotline – 844-863-9314 nyprojecthope.org/
- Emergency Broadband Benefit for help with internet costs – fcc.gov/broadbandbenefit
- COPE Foundation: Camp Erin and help children deal with grief – copefoundation.org/
- Comfort Health: support services for Medicaid-eligible children 0 to 21 – yourcomforthealth.org
- Westchester County Department of Community Mental Health (DCMH): can refer you and your child to local agencies that meet your needs: mentalhealth.westchestergov.com/
- Tips for Mental Wellness: omh.ny.gov/omhweb/covid-19-resources.html
- Reminders When Coping with Grief: omh.ny.gov/omhweb/covid-19-resources/coping-with-grief-reminders.pdf
- Mental Health Resources During an Emergency: omh.ny.gov/omhweb/disaster_resources/pandemic_influenza/
During this uncertain time, be sure to stay tuned to WCA for more updates on how you can support Westchester’s children.
READ OTHER ARTICLES IN THIS eBULLETIN:
- WCA fights for children amidst eviction moratorium uncertainty
- Upcoming, online-only Annual Report for 2020
- How can we do better? Help us update you and work better with you
Find past eBulletin editions here.
Published August 18, 2021