A children’s hospital in Colorado declared a “pediatric mental health emergency” after an unprecedented number of children 8 years and older need immediate treatment, primarily for suicidal thoughts and attempts.

Children’s Hospital Colorado Executive Director Jena Hausmann said the facility is overflowing with children attempting suicide and suffering from other forms of serious mental illness.

Hausmann issued a call to action Tuesday to Governor Jared Polis, lawmakers and state agencies to prioritize mental health services for children, free up more funds for suicide prevention, recruit more providers and cut red tape to allow children access services, The Gazette reported.

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Dr. David Brumbaugh, medical director at Children’s Hospital Colorado, said that between a dozen and two dozen children throughout the system can wait hours or days on any given day for a behavioral health bed. As a result, Hausmann has suggested the creation of emergency centers, such as those that emerged for COVID-19 patients.

“It has been devastating to see suicide become the leading cause of death for Colorado children,” Hausmann said.

Children’s Hospital Colorado, which operates 16 urgent care, emergency and specialty locations across the state, saw a 72% system-wide increase in behavioral health emergency department visits from January to April compared to the same period in 2019, authorities said.

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Brumbaugh noted a sense of urgency for Children’s Hospital Colorado, as three or four teens attempt suicide a week and beds at the facility are completely full.

Children’s Hospital Colorado is now expanding multiple campuses to add inpatient and outpatient mental health beds and services, including in Colorado Springs.

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