The Smallest Victims of the Mental Health Crisis Get Some Help

It’s pretty hard to deny that we, as a nation, are in a mental health crisis right now. Making a mental health diagnosis is a lengthy process fraught with variables, and once a diagnosis is made, getting the treatment right can take months, even years.

In North Carolina, the Duke Endowment is experimenting with telepsychiatry—or in other words, remote docs who can diagnose ER mental health cases a hundred miles away—to try to ease some of the burden of simply not having enough specialists for all the cases that are out there. Meanwhile, children’s mental health services are a whole other Pandora’s Box. In many places, mental health treatment facilities specifically for kids just don’t exist, and kids and their families are left scratching their heads.

It’s a grim reality, but in one corner of Orange County, California, a $5 million gift from Sandy Segerstrom Daniels is going to make a world of difference. A pediatric mental health inpatient center at the Children’s Hospital of Orange County (CHOC) featuring 18 beds is expected to be completed by late 2017, and it sounds like it’s just the kind of thing sorely needed in the area.

According to CHOC, one in five children, or about a hundred and fifty thousand children in Orange County, experience a diagnosable mental health condition during childhood—this, in a county without a single psychiatric inpatient bed for a patient under the age of 12. All this means that young patients with mental health conditions linger in the ER, sometimes for days, until their condition subsides or someone is able to take responsibility for them.

"We recognize that pediatric mental illness has become a nationwide crisis and are committed to addressing it," said CHOC president and CEO Kimberly Chavalas Cripe. "CHOC and our partners are excited by the opportunity to create a scalable model for pediatric mental health care that other communities across the country can replicate."