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AZ teens struggle with mental health at high rates, report says

Arizona youth between the ages of 12 and 17 are struggling with mental health at higher rates than their peers in other states, but many aren't getting the help they need. That’s according to a first-of-its-kind report on adolescent health in the state released Thursday.

The report, titled  The State of Adolescent Health in Arizona, was compiled by a coalition of health organizations called the Arizona Alliance for Adolescent Health.

It notes about one in six Arizona adolescents experienced a major depressive episode in the last year, the ninth-highest rate of any state. 

“While Arizona has one of the highest rates of youth experiencing a major depressive episode, we rank as one of the worst states for youth getting treatment when they have such an episode. We are ahead of only Texas, Mississippi and Hawaii,” said Matt Jewett, director of health policy with the Children's Action Alliance, one of the organizations that contributed to the report. 

The report says only 30% of adolescents in crisis in the state in the last year got treatment.

Jewett said access to basic health care is one area of concern. He said Arizona teens are less likely to have health insurance or regular well visits than younger children.

“Those things are important because adolescence sets the stage for the rest of life,” Jewett said. 

Jewett said a  recent expansion of the state’s Medicaid program will make thousands more Arizona kids eligible for health coverage this year.

Katherine Davis-Young is a senior field correspondent. She has produced work for NPR, New England Public Radio, Southern California Public Radio, PRI's The World, Washington Post, Reuters and more.She has a master’s degree in radio journalism from the USC Annenberg School of Journalism.She lives in central Phoenix with her husband, two daughters, and ill-behaved cat and dog. Her side-passions include photography, crosswords and hot sauce.