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Mental Health is Focus of New SD Child Well-Being Summary

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Wednesday, August 10, 2022   

A new report said South Dakota has made strides in the past decade to improve child well-being, but its authors say there are still plenty of challenges, and mental health is increasingly becoming one of them.

The Annie E. Casey Foundation's annual Kids Count Data Book puts South Dakota in the middle of the pack for child well-being, at 24th in the nation.

The report noted more than one in seven children around the state have experienced depression or anxiety.

Xanna Burg, Kids Count coordinator for South Dakota, said rates are higher for children of color, and there is another troubling statistic as well.

"In South Dakota, they have the second-highest rate in the nation of teen suicide," Burg reported. "Really concerning data around mental-health support."

The report backed a recommendation schools maintain a ratio of 250 students per counselor. Burg pointed out South Dakota's ratio is 363 to one. She emphasized for smaller districts which might have a harder time adding staff, solutions such as telehealth should be considered.

Earlier this year, the state announced it would use federal pandemic funding to add more regional behavioral health facilities.

The report also showed many South Dakota families still make poverty-level wages, and about 42,000 children live in families paying more than 30% of their income on housing.

Leslie Boissiere, vice president of external affairs for the Annie E. Casey Foundation, stressed it is important to not lose momentum in trying to improve the situation.

"It's incredibly important that decision makers seize the opportunity and the lessons learned during the COVID-19 period, when more resources were provided to families," Boissiere urged. "So that we can make sure that every child has their basic needs met, that fewer children live in poverty, and that the overall well-being of children in this country increases."

Analysts noted the federal Child Tax Credit, which was temporarily expanded last year and included monthly payments, helped lift kids out of poverty, but political gridlock has blocked a permanent expansion.

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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