On Feb. 6, the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services introduced the Child Behavioral Health dashboard. This is a publicly available tool designed to provide data and analysis on behavioral health services for children in North Carolina. The dashboard monitors three primary indicators among 5 to 18-year-old, Medicaid-insured children in North Carolina. The behavioral health indicator shows the percentages of children diagnosed with depression, ADHD and substance use disorder. The utilization indicator tracks metrics of emergency departments, mobile crisis services and psychiatric residential treatment facilities.
Additionally, the risk indicator provides survey data on children’s self-esteem, sadness and hopelessness, along with statistics on babies born with low birth weights — all considered risk factors for ADHD, depression and other health issues later in life. The dashboard also factors in geography, race, ethnicity, age and gender. Hanaleah Hoberman, the director of child and family strategic initiatives at the NCDHHS, said these factors help stakeholders identify and address gaps and disparities in health care.
“We know that different communities are affected differently by behavioral health challenges [and] have different levels of access to behavioral health services,” Hoberman said. According to the dashboard, 33,902 children were diagnosed with clinical depression in 2022. Of that number, 5,183 were from the Research Triangle Park area, including Wake, Durham and Orange counties.
Jameca Cotton, a school counselor at River Park Elementary in Hillsborough, said that while school counselors have limited availability, the dashboard could help students find temporary resources. “Sometimes we are backed up on school-based therapy,” Cotton said. “So, sometimes we kind of need other strategies and solutions to figure out plans until we are able to support our students.”