BOARDMAN — U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown said more focus on mental health issues among children is needed.
During the COVID-19 pandemic “we sort of lost sight of all other things medical except the pandemic,” he said during a Friday discussion on the subject with health care professionals and others at the Akron Children’s Hospital Beeghly Campus.
“Everyone knows the toll this pandemic is taking on the mental health of our children,” Brown, D-Cleveland, said. “The isolation, the fear, the disruption to kids’ routines and in too many cases, the death of a caregiver or a loved one — it all builds up.”
Brown said that “investing in mental health is really important from a young age” and “we should be focusing on children’s mental health because there are way more suicidal tendencies, way more mental health issues among young people than we recognized before the pandemic.”
Brown added: “We’ve got to double down on all these mental health issues, whether it’s opioids, whether it’s depression, whether it’s anxiety, whatever people of all ages face. For decades we have swept mental health issues aside. We don’t want to talk about it.”
Among those participating in the discussion Friday were Jianna Guerriero, a 17-year-old Columbiana girl, and her mother, Kelly.
Jianna was being bullied and cutting herself before she received treatment and counseling at Akron Children’s.
“She’s come a long, long way,” her mother said.
Jianna said: “My life is so much better” now.
Brown addressed a bill passed by the U.S. Senate that is designed to reduce mass shootings by offering millions of dollars for mental health, school security and crisis intervention as well as more mental health programs, school security and some gun safety provisions.
“The gun bill was major progress,” Brown said. “An 18-year-old shouldn’t be able to on their birthday go in and buy an AR-15 with no background check and no waiting period. We made some progress on that bill. We didn’t do enough. Assault weapons shouldn’t be on the street in this country. Nobody needs a weapon that can discharge dozens of bullets in a short period of time. We had a partial victory in making our gun laws better.”
While at the Boardman hospital, Brown also toured the expanded emergency room under construction.
The $32 million project, which started last October, will be finished in February and opened in April, said Paul N. Olivier, vice president of Akron Children’s Mahoning Valley area.
The square footage is going from 8,300 to 30,800 and will increase space from 17 standard rooms to 23 family-centered care patient rooms with space for six more rooms and an expanded waiting room.
The expansion also will see the hospital go from one behavioral room to three, Olivier said.