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New Annie E. Casey Publication Ranks Wyoming 14th for Child Well-Being

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Tuesday, August 9, 2022   

Wyoming ranks 14th in the nation for promoting children's overall well-being, according to the Annie E. Casey Foundation's latest report on child wellness, even as children have struggled with what report authors call a mental health pandemic.

Micah Richardson, director of programs for the Wyoming Community Foundation, said there were many bright spots in the report. The state ranked seventh in children's economic well-being, and has a lower percentage of kids living in poverty compared to other states.

"That's not to say we don't have children living in poverty, and this is an important issue," Richardson emphasized. "We still have 12% of children who are living in families that have an income below $23,000."

Wyoming scored above national averages for education, and kids in the Cowboy State are the second least likely to be obese nationally. The state also saw a decrease in child and teen deaths. Wyoming's high percentage of children without health insurance, due to the state's decision not to expand Medicaid coverage under the Affordable Care Act, dropped Wyoming's overall health ranking to 33rd in the nation.

Wyoming has the highest number of deaths by suicide per 100,000 in the nation, and Richardson argued the rising numbers of children experiencing anxiety and depression should be a red flag for policymakers who declined to fund a number of mental-health initiatives this past session.

"Access to mental-health care providers is limited. We don't have enough mental health providers," Richardson contended. "We really need to be thinking about what pieces are in place, and what can we do as a state to support the mental health of our kids."

Medicaid expansion is projected to give 24,000 Wyoming residents access to health insurance, and nearly half of the new enrollees would be working women younger than 35 who earn too much to qualify for regular Medicaid but cannot afford private insurance.

Richardson pointed to hospitals in Rawlins and Kemmerer, recently forced to reduce services, which she said would benefit from Medicaid expansion by covering costs for patients who can't pay.

"It is also supportive of these hospitals," Richardson noted. "They are losing money, and we know that a lot of our hospitals are struggling, especially our rural hospitals. We have two areas of the state who no longer do maternal deliveries."

Disclosure: The Annie E Casey Foundation contributes to our fund for reporting on Children's Issues, Criminal Justice, Early Childhood Education, Education, Juvenile Justice, and Welfare Reform. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.


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