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Leading Change to Overcome the Children’s Mental Health Crisis in Missouri

A child’s mental health impacts every aspect of their life and is crucial for building resilience, cultivating joy and helping them reach their full potential. Here at KVC Missouri, we know everyone needs connection, and part of our commitment to that belief is grounded in ensuring every child has access to high-quality mental health care.

In Missouri and across the nation, the need for more accessible and effective mental health care is becoming increasingly dire. When a child is experiencing a mental health crisis, they can’t wait. They need access to care as soon as possible. We at KVC Missouri are stepping up our efforts to transform and improve the landscape. Keep reading below to learn about the mental health crisis in the state of Missouri and how our new initiative, Leading the Change, is paving the way for a brighter future. 

Building Strong Foundations: Mental Health Matters

A person’s mental health influences nearly every facet of their life. It shapes their thoughts, guides their actions and affects the way they interact with the world around them. From childhood and adolescence, all the way through adulthood, mental wellness can be a source of strength and help us face life adversities. A positive mental health foundation enables us to navigate challenges, create healthy and meaningful relationships and make well-informed decisions.

Various life circumstances can impact a person’s mental health, such as traumatic experiences, chronic health conditions, the loss of a loved one, substance use, genetics or other adversities. The stigma around mental health and barriers to care are preventing young people from obtaining the proper support they need and deserve. Providing young people with effective care rooted in understanding, compassion and human connection is essential to helping them thrive and live their best possible life. 

The Mental Health Crisis in Missouri

Missouri is facing a serious mental healthcare crisis. Sadly, Missouri ranks in the bottom 10 nationally for access to mental health care, with suicide ranking as the third leading cause of death among young people aged 10 to 34. 

Lindsey Stephenson, President of KVC Missouri

“Today’s kids are growing up with more stress whether it’s academics, social pressures, cyberbullying, or new fears enhanced by recent events like the pandemic and gun violence,” said Lindsey Stephenson, President of KVC Missouri. “It’s a lot for adults to handle, and overwhelming for kids and teens going through crucial developmental milestones.”

Despite a growing need, nearly 6 in 10 high-risk youth with major depression receive no treatment at all. This crisis is particularly severe in the St. Louis region which lacks 150 inpatient pediatric beds for mental health emergencies, resulting in delayed admissions and lengthy waitlists. For some families, there are also significant travel burdens during times when they need immediate care for a child’s safety and wellbeing.


“We need more community interventions in place,” Stephenson adds. “Every child needs a resource to help them navigate their mental wellness from the everyday challenges to severe mental health crises.”

KVC Missouri recognizes this lack of access to care and advocates for proactive measures to bridge gaps to ensure every child has access to the support they need.

Shaping the Future of Children’s Mental Health

KVC Missouri’s Leading the Change initiative is a beacon of hope for children’s mental health, representing a transformative step toward creating a brighter future for children in the Greater St. Louis region and across the state of Missouri.

In response to the unmet needs of Missouri’s youth, KVC is collaborating with state and local leaders to mobilize support.

“We’re working with partners across the state to form new solutions for more access to care and investing in our facilities and staff to ensure our team stays ahead with the latest knowledge and techniques to provide the best support,” Stephenson explains about the initiative. 

This collaborative endeavor is crucial and requires collective efforts to effectively meet the mental health needs of those in crisis. KVC’s focus lies in achieving a community-centered approach that creates opportunities for everyone through cutting-edge treatment options.

“Children are suffering and turning to suicide at alarming rates and this problem is not going to solve itself,” Stephenson says.

And KVC Missouri aspires to be part of the solution. We are in the early stages of envisioning new possibilities for innovative children’s mental health treatment across the state. The goal is to ease the burden on hospital emergency rooms and child welfare systems, serve as a statewide safety net for children and families facing challenges and provide purposeful, effective care for those in need.

Transformative Services: Making a Difference

At KVC Missouri, our commitment to comprehensive care is reflected in the diverse range of services we provide. From family strengthening services to foster care, children’s mental health treatment, therapeutic education and more, our extensive continuum of care ensures that children and families can access support at various levels. 

“Every child has a unique set of needs and we take a personalized approach to our services and programs to meet them where they are and address those individual challenges,” Stephenson says. Whether it’s through community-based care that offers the least intensive assistance or children’s residential treatment programs providing more intensive mental health support, KVC tailors its services to meet the unique needs of each child and their family. This approach underscores its dedication to offering a broad spectrum of care options and ensures every child receives the personalized support needed for their wellbeing and growth.

Community-Based Services 

Our community-based services are designed to reach children and families where they live, learn and thrive. We operate in homes, schools and various community settings to strengthen families and promote mental wellness. Our services include family strengthening programs, intensive outpatient programs, school-based mental health services, crisis services and more. We provide the support and resources needed to enhance the emotional, psychological and social wellbeing of children and families. 

Educational Academies

In our commitment to holistic care, KVC operates private K-12 therapeutic schools approved by the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education. These academies offer a unique environment where youth receive the time and attention needed to heal, change and grow.

This includes traditional classroom education paired with experiential learning from nature, art and music as therapeutic tools, and developing life and vocational skills. We offer students a safe and supportive space for emotional and behavioral growth. Our schools adapt our teaching to ensure each child can thrive academically and personally. 

Children’s Residential Treatment

For youth requiring intensive clinical services in a nurturing environment, KVC Missouri’s residential treatment programs provide 24-hour supervision and support to help children move beyond crisis. Tailoring our approach to meet individual needs, our team will create treatment plans, deliver evidence-based therapies and offer opportunities for skill-building and education. From emotional regulation to coping skills, children receive care in a home-like setting where our team works to safely transition them back to their community.

Lasting Change Starts Here

From the importance of early intervention and supportive environments to the transformative power of compassion and connection, we want to create a world where every child’s mental health is nurtured and uplifted. For a more in-depth look at the impactful statistics surrounding children’s mental health and the initiatives we’re taking to drive change, visit our Leading the Change page.


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