Massachusetts ranks first in the nation for children’s well-being, according to the 2022 Kids Count Data Book from the Annie E. Casey Foundation.
Experts gave the Bay State high marks for combating poverty and boosting educational achievement. However, the report also found an increase of more than 50% in children ages 3 to 17 with anxiety or depression between 2016 and 2020, nearly double the national average.
Mary McGeown, executive director of the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children, said the state faces a shortage of inpatient psychiatric beds.
“On any given day, including today, there are hundreds of kids who need inpatient care, who have gone to an emergency room seeking help,” she said, “and they wait there days, weeks, and sometimes months for access to a bed.”
Gov. Charlie Baker signed a comprehensive mental-health bill Wednesday that sets up a dashboard to manage psychiatric beds, invests in school-based behavioral health and more.
McGeown credited Massachusetts’ top overall score to its success in getting almost all children covered by health insurance, as well as targeted supports to schools and low-income families during the pandemic.
Leslie Boissiere, vice president for external affairs at the Annie E. Casey Foundation, said the nation’s recovery remains very uneven, with continued economic hardship, both in highly urban and rural areas.
“Enacting policies that we know can lift children out of poverty and also can secure the financial security of low-income families,” she said. “Things like expansion of the Child Tax Credit. Putting resources in the hands of low-income families, so that they can provide for the basic needs of their children.”
The report recommends expanding the Earned Income Tax Credit, which provides cash supports to low-income families.