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One in five adolescents has a mental health disorder. Most will never receive treatment.

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According to a recent study by the National Institute of Mental Health, over 20% of children living in the U.S between 8-15 are currently suffering from mental disorders or they will at some point. 

Estimates suggest that between 60 and 90 percent of adolescents with mental health disorders fail to receive treatment.

16-year-old Jake O'May's recent struggle to access mental health care in his hometown of Rochester, New York was an eye opener for him and his family.

After one of his friends committed suicide Jake -who had dealt with depression and anxiety since 5th grade, started having suicidal thoughts of his own.

That's when he turned to his father for help.

“The scariest thing for me was seeing my son who was there in an acute state trying to get psychiatric help,” Jake's father Dave O'May told our affiliate WHAM News in Rochester, New York.

Although recent federal policies like the Mental Health Parity, the Addiction Equity Act and the Affordable Care helped expand insurance coverage of mental health disorders for children, they can't provide access to care for patients who live in areas where it doesn't exist.

There's only one child psychiatric in-patient unit near the O'May's and the only way to become a patient is by going to the University of Rochester Medical Center and checking into the comprehensive emergency psychiatric unit (C-Pep) first.

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C-Pep functions as more of a holding area for patients waiting for treatment. It's a safe place for them to wait until a spot in the child psych ward is available.

Jake had to wait 70 hours in limbo before he could be admitted to the Strong Pediatric Psychiatric Inpatient program.

But not everyone who checks in at C-Pep is so lucky. More often than not patients end up driving across the state to find a hospital with an opening which means they won't be guaranteed the level of care they may need.

Dave O'May told WHAM News that some children end up at the Golisano Children's Hospital because they don't have any other options,

“Golisano Children's Hospital is a blessing for our community, but I see 35 kids sleeping in various states on the floor on chairs with blankets just left there."

Dr. Michael Scharf is the chief of child psychiatry at URMC. He says there's no greater priority in healthcare than child psychology. 

"It becomes very clear that if we're serious about health care reform that child and adolescent psychiatry is the essence of health care reform."
Dr. Michael Scharf

Jake created a GoFundMe to raise money for the program he says changed his life.

"I want to give back to the growing number of kids battling mental illness and to the hospital for all that they did for me."

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His father said the best way to fix the problem is by raising awareness.

"If I didn't know that the adolescent teen psych mental health options were so limited in Rochester, who else doesn’t know?"

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