The following was published in the Willamette Week on December 4, 2017.
Children First for Oregon today released its annual report on the state of Oregon’s children and families.
There are some remarkable numbers in the report.
On the good side, a lot of children have health insurance, due the Medicaid expansion that was part of the Affordable Care Act—about 96 percent in the metro area.
On the bad side, a lot of people with young kids in Oregon are hungry: “44.1% of single mothers experienced food insecurity — a rate more than ten percentage points higher than the U.S,” the report says.
On the unconscionable side, the rate of teen suicide in Oregon is tragic and a disgrace.
Here’s what the report says on that topic:
“From 2006 to 2015, suicide doubled as a percentage of total teen deaths (ages 15
to 19 years old) in Oregon. In 2013, 38.3 percent of teen deaths were suicides, making it the number one cause of death,” the report says. “While the rate of suicide among U.S. youth aged 10-24 years hardly budged from 2010 to 2013, the rate in Oregon spiked by over 41 percent in the same time frame.”
Suicide is more prevalent on a per capita basis in rural Oregon, and the report cited one reason for that: “Eight counties lacked any licensed mental health facilities in 2015 [the most recent year for which figures are available], putting children in these parts of the state at higher risk of mental health concerns, suicide, and self-harm.”
The advocacy group’s 2017 County Data Book is chock full of numbers, both for the state over-all and broken down on a county-by-county basis.
“Outcomes for Oregon kids are significantly impacted by where they live,” Children First for Oregon Executive Director Tonia Hunt said in a statement. “While child poverty, food insecurity, and unemployment are showing signs of improvement statewide, these gains aren’t benefiting kids evenly across our counties.”