Pediatric mental health care services are not readily available in the state of California. According to a study conducted by the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research, more than 300,000 children aged four to 11 are in need of mental health care in the state, but only one in four of these children receives proper treatment. Children’s Hospital of Orange County (CHOC) is looking to change these statistics by developing a new initiative surrounding pediatric mental health care, including a new inpatient treatment center that aims to create a safe environment for youth struggling with mental health disorders.
In fall of 2014, CHOC acknowledged the lack of resources available for children struggling with mental health issues and started a task force with Rick and Kay Warren who are the co-founders of Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, California. This task force was led by mental health professionals and included community leaders, educators and faith-based advisors who developed a series of actions CHOC is now going to take to increase the quality and accessibility of mental health services to children in the state. These actions include expanding the mental health services currently available to CHOC patients being treated for chronic and/or serious illnesses, as they are at high risk for developing mental health disorders, such as depression and anxiety. This is especially true of those diagnosed with terminal illnesses. CHOC will also be opening an intensive outpatient program and expand its current outpatient eating disorders program, both by 2016.
However, the primary reason the task force was developed was to address the lack of inpatient treatment available to children in the state of California. One in five children develops a diagnosable mental health disorder during childhood. CHOC estimates that there are 150,000 children in Orange County alone who are struggling with such issues. Despite these numbers, the amount of inpatient psychiatric beds in the state has declined in the past 15 years, making the state’s bed-per-capita ratio lower than the national average. Currently, there are no psychiatric inpatient beds in Orange County for children under the age of 12.
The third floor of CHOC’s Research Building in Orange, California will be home to the new CHOC Children’s Mental Health Inpatient Center, which will provide 18 beds for psychiatric patients ages three to 18. The program will be run by trained pediatric mental health care staff and have a specialty program for ages 11 and younger. The facility will also have an outdoor recreation area. Construction is planned to commence in fall of 2015 and finish in late 2017.
As a result of the lack of psychiatric inpatient services in the area for minors at the present time, children with severe mental health disorders who pose a danger to themselves or others have often been kept in emergency rooms under supervision for days at a time. Less than one-third of children struggling with some form of mental illness seek the professional help at all. However, this new resource at CHOC will provide children with inpatient care they need through a combination of therapies and/or prescription medication.
With this new initiative, CHOC hopes to reduce the stigma associated with mental health issues, especially among children as it keeps individuals from seeking treatment. Kimberly Chavalas Cripe, CHOC President and Chief Executive Officer, stated, “We recognize that pediatric mental illness has become a nationwide epidemic, and are committed to ending it… We know our plans are ambitious, but they are critical and lifesaving. The vision begins with establishing a caring home at CHOC for our children and families to turn to for help.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the treatment of mental health disorders during early childhood greatly reduces their severity in adulthood. With its new inpatient program, CHOC plans to contribute to this early intervention and act as a model for pediatric mental health services which can then be replicated at hospitals across the country.
The CHOC Children’s Mental Health Inpatient Center is able to become a reality largely due to a generous donation of $5 million from Sandy Segerstrom Daniels, a managing partner in South Coast Plaza and surrounding Costa Mesa companies. CHOC is launching a fundraising campaign for the remainder of the funds needed, including $11 million for startup costs and a $16 million endowment. Additional funds will be raised for CHOC’s outpatient treatment programs.
If your child is struggling with mental health issues, help is available. Sovereign Health Rancho San Diego is a facility that specializes in treating adolescents and teenagers struggling with mental health disorders, substance abuse and dual diagnosis. Call 866-615-7266 to speak with a professional today.
Written by Courtney Howard, Sovereign Health Group writer