Report: Substance abuse and mental health issues impacting Hoosier kids

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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. (February 15, 2016) -- The Indiana Youth Institute released its annual "Kids Count in Indiana Data Book" on Monday morning, giving Hoosiers an idea of how our state measures-up when it comes to child well-being.

This year, the report shows adult substance abuse and mental health issues are impacting kids in big way: Indiana has the highest number of meth incidents in the U.S.  It also shows 13.4% of Indiana's children have lived with someone who had a drug or alcohol problem, ranking Indiana as the state with the 12th highest rate in the country.

Experts say substance abuse and mental health issues go hand-in-hand in many cases. In our state,  one in twenty kids suffer from a serious behavior problem, and the percentage of kids dealing with anxiety or depression is higher than the national average.

Glenn Augustine, Interim CEO and V.P. for Advancement at the Indiana Youth Institute, says one barrier to overcoming these issues if the fact that Indiana needs more mental health professionals.

"There are not enough professional people to treat mental health conditions or drug abuse issues," Augustine said.

"Sometimes those with mental health issues try to abuse a substance as a way to self-medicate themselves."

The data book shows Indiana has one mental health provider for every 750 Hoosiers.

However, it’s not all bad news: The report also says Indiana’s teen birth rate is now at it’s lowest level ever recorded.

"Children in that 15 to 17 age group are not giving birth to as many children as they were before. The positives to that are -- anytime a child is born, that should be cause for a celebration and great joy -- but what we tend to see is, in that birth area, there’s just more challenges," Augustine said.

Augustine explained that some of those challenges include finishing high school and says their research shows that about 80% of those mothers end up on welfare at some point in their life.

Overall, Augustine says Indiana actually falls in the middle of the states when it comes to most of the categories. As always, he says the goal is to help area leaders see what’s going on our state so they can work on solutions and direct the right resources.

You can learn more about the report here.

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