Children Often Lack Mental Health Services

Children’s Hospital of Michigan Foundation Seeks to Expand Understanding and Care


Despite efforts to bring mental health services into parity with other forms of health care, disparities are still prevalent, especially for children. “Children with psychiatric disorders are diagnostic and therapeutic orphans. Millions of children don’t have access to mental health care,” says David Rosenberg, M.D., professor and chair, department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Neurosciences at Wayne State University and Miriam L. Hamburger Endowed Chair of Child Psychiatry.

In addition, a lack of understanding about the causes and treatments for pediatric mental health disorders sometimes discourages parents and young people from seeking help. Overcoming the stigma of mental illness in order to undergo early treatment is very important.  According to the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), positive mental health is essential to a child’s overall development. Today, better treatments, including behavioral therapy and new medications, alleviate symptoms for many children and teenagers so that they can enjoy more normal lives.

Physicians and researchers are learning that psychiatric illnesses are behavior disorders evident in brain activity. Their research indicates that psychiatric disorders are biological illnesses resulting from a complex mix of genetics, environmental factors, and variations in brain chemistry and brain network functioning.

Fortunately, children’s brains are considered more “plastic” than adult brains so they have a better opportunity for effective treatment. With support from Children’s Hospital of Michigan Foundation, Dr. Rosenberg and his Wayne State University research team are investigating ways to identify children at higher risk for certain mental illnesses–a first step in early treatment. Their published study of the role of glutamate, a chemical that modulates pediatric brain function, was the first in the field of child psychiatry.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, 13 percent of young people from 8 to 15 years of age experienced a mental disorder within the previous year with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and autism spectrum conditions being the most common. In addition, the National Survey on Drug Use and Health reported that in 2014, 11.4 percent of young people aged 12 to 17 had a major depressive episode with many receiving no treatment.

To enhance access to mental health services for young people, Children’s Hospital of Michigan Foundation supports an Integrated Care Program that screens young patients at a primary clinic for mental health and substance issues. Treatment is provided on site at the Children’s Hospital of Michigan clinic and many young people who might otherwise have struggled due to lack of care are managing their conditions without inpatient treatment and often without medication.

“Contributing to research, treatment and supportive care for children facing mental health disorders is an important example of our commitment to the health of Michigan children,” states Tony Werner, president and Chief executive officer of Children’s Hospital of Michigan Foundation.

Children’s Hospital of Michigan Foundation

Established in 2003, the Foundation is dedicated to advancing the health and healthcare of the children of Michigan.  This is accomplished through philanthropic support for pediatric medical education, research, and community benefit programs.  The Foundation granted $5.7 million in 2014 for vital pediatric health initiatives. The Foundation is an independent public charity governed by a community board of 29 directors, and is a 501(c) (3) charitable organization. Learn more at