Pubdate: Tue, 07 Mar 2006
Source: Bangor Daily News (ME)
Copyright: 2006 Bangor Daily News Inc.


The value of the 2006 Maine Kids Count data book,  released last week
by the Maine Children's Alliance, is  found primarily neither in its
statewide numbers nor in  this year's edition. But by examining the
county-level  information and looking across several years of data,
these annual check-ups show patterns of conditions and  behaviors
that, in turn, make sound policy possible and  inspire Maine to not
just talk about problems but help  solve them.

Or celebrate improving trends. Smoking, alcohol and  marijuana use are
down, so are teen pregnancies while  the number of high-school
graduates who intend to go to  post-secondary school is up. Compared
with national  average, Maine's children do fairly well, on average.
But there are exceptions within the state.

For instance, that falling teen pregnancy rate was 7.7  (per 1,000
females) statewide in 2002 but in Hancock  County the number was a
mere 4.2 while in Knox it was  13.5. And for teen deaths, the safest
counties are  Cumberland, Franklin and Androscoggin, which have death
rates only one-third of 16th-ranked Waldo County. Going  back over a
half dozen five-year average measures,  these rankings remain roughly
stable, suggesting the  need to target policies to particular counties.

The statistics on mental-health hospitalizations for  children through
age 19 are even more dramatic. They  have risen more than 40 percent
since 2000, to 2,759 in  2004, with 70 percent of hospitalizations for
children  ages 13-17 for mental illness. The increase raises  multiple
questions about the kinds of interventions and  treatment children are
receiving for mental-health  conditions, the possible sources of the
rise in cases  and the level of access to treatment across counties.
Whatever the cause, the Kids Count book is underlining  a serious
issue here and policymakers should act on it.

There is much more in the data book (or at the Alliance  web site:, but the point of the book  isn't merely to compile
numbers. It is to connect the  dots of where Maine children have been
in their  economic and social lives, and with their physical and
mental health so that Maine might know where they are  headed. Kids
Count performs a valuable service when it  reveals these patterns and,
especially with the new  data on mental-illness hospitalizations,
points to a  path for action. 
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MAP posted-by: SHeath(DPF Florida)