Local mental health care providers getting flood of new referrals for children

With LSU and many K-12 schools set to open for in-person attendance in the fall, workers returning to the office and businesses back at full capacity, Baton Rouge has entered a time of transition, which, in turn, has led more people to seek out mental health care services. 

Shawn Verges, clinical director for the Baton Rouge and Hammond offices of HCO Behavioral Health Services, says her organization has seen a stark increase in referrals in general since the onset of the pandemic and she worries what course this trend will take as people go through another tough adjustment. 

Among this flood of new referrals, Verges estimates that around 75% are children. Having adapted to virtual learning and social isolation at such a formative period in their development, she says young children are especially susceptible to anxiety at the prospect of returning to in-person school and unmitigated social interaction. 

John Nosacka, a licensed social worker and program manager at Capital Area Human Services, says the challenges children and adults are facing post-pandemic are not unusual or unexpected. Though the threat of contracting COVID-19 in social situations has decreased for vaccinated individuals, the social conditioning people have undergone to prevent the virus’ spread will not be easy to shed, he says. 

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