Blog | Event | May 14, 2021

Ohio Business Leaders Join a Panel Discussion about Children’s Health and the Future Workforce

Business leaders and childhood health experts discuss how to improve Ohio children’s health to strengthen the future workforce

Yesterday, Ohio business leaders released a report at the virtual Northwestern Ohio Business Leaders Forum. The new report notes that student mental health is a major concern while detailing how investing in Student Wellness and Success is vital to developing the current and future workforce.

Improving child wellness will grow the economy by increasing the number of workers with a high school diploma and postsecondary education and training to fill increasingly demanding jobs. Untreated mental health disorders (such as depression and conduct disorders) and untreated physical conditions (such as asthma and poor vision) tend to limit educational attainment and future professional and personal success.

After an introduction by Michael Harlow, Director of ReadyNation Ohio, the event began with opening remarks by Jed Metzger, the President/CEO of the Lima/Allen County Chamber of Commerce. “This report makes the case that Ohio schools, in partnership with organizations in their communities, can support student mental and physical health and build healthy environments for students to learn and grow,” he said.

“We also know that our schools and our partners here in Lima and Allen County have benefited from the Student Wellness and Success funds that have helped children develop the skills to cope with challenges in their lives and the world around them,” Metzger added.

Amber Moorer, Associate Director of Research for Council for a Strong America, outlined the report’s findings. “Evidence suggests that the COVID-19 pandemic and the associated efforts to socially distance have resulted in more student isolation,” she says. “ Parents know that their children are struggling.” In response to a family wellbeing survey administered last fall, 59 percent of parents reported that they had a child who was currently or had recently experienced mental or emotional health challenges, such as loneliness, difficulty handling emotions, or difficulty coping with stress.

Moorer continued, noting that it’s never too early to support child wellbeing. In particular, she highlighted home visiting programs, such as the Every Child Succeeds home visiting program in Cincinnati, which found that the program lowered infant mortality by 60 percent.

“Home visiting programs educate parents about their child’s early physical and emotional development. These efforts also provide tools for parents to manage stress, effectively guide their toddlers away from problem behaviors, and connect to resources within the community. Ultimately, these programs help lower rates of abuse and neglect, improve academic achievement, curtail substance abuse, and foster families’ financial independence.”

Moorer concluded her remarks by adding that “Ohio has a prime opportunity to invest in child physical health, mental health, and lifelong success. The strength of the future workforce and, ultimately, the state economy depend on the choices our legislators will make this year.”

Joining Metzger and Moorer at the virtual release event were Kayla Monfort and Josh Unterbrink, Co-Directors of Activate Allen County.

Monfort spoke about community health efforts in Allen County, including those designed to address infant mortality. She added, “Activate Allen County and area stakeholders have identified improving mental health and decreasing substance abuse as a top health priority in our community. We have long believed that early intervention is the best prevention, and the long-term success of our community depends on how we can effectively treat our youngest residents most in need.”

After the presenters spoke, Harlow commented, “One question we get about these funds is whether Medicaid covers these services. If the child is Medicaid eligible and the provider can bill Medicaid, then the law requires billing Medicaid. Not all children are Medicaid-eligible and some services are not. Student Wellness and Success funds are used to provide what Medicaid does not.”

Childhood wellness must be a top priority for lawmakers, and everyone, for a myriad of reasons. One of those reasons is the incredible impact children’s mental health has on our future economy and overall prosperity. As lawmakers consider how to recover from the pandemic and prepare for the future, they must address childhood wellness and support programs that inspire meaningful and long-lasting change.

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