Northwell Health unveiled a $500 million plan Tuesday to address the growing need for mental health services among children and teens on Long Island and the region.
In addition to expanding behavioral health services, Northwell will build a 100-bed child and adolescent mental health facility in New Hyde Park. Northwell is committing $350 million and expects to raise an additional $150 million to pay for the initiative.
We are in a crisis, said Dr. Charles Schlein, senior vice president of pediatric services at Northwell Health. Incidents of mental health problems among children and adolescents continue to rise and accelerate during COVID-19.
Schleien pointed to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that 1 in 5 children experience a mental disorder in a given year.
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW
- Northwell Health plans to build a 100-bed child and adolescent mental health pavilion affiliated with Cohen Childrens Medical Center in New Hyde Park.
- Experts say there is a growing need for mental health services to children and teenagers throughout Long Island and the region.
- The new pavilion is part of it larger initiatives to provide behavioral health services in collaboration with schools, places of worship and pediatric offices.
Dr. John Young, president and senior vice president of psychiatry at Northwell Health and the Zucker School of Medicine, said more children are dealing with depression, anxiety, eating disorders, substance abuse and attention deficit disorders.
We have a mental health system with several major challenges, Young said. There are decades and decades of underinvestment and enormous stigma in health care and in society as a whole.
Julia, whose last name is withheld at her family’s request for privacy, said she always felt anxious but knew she had a bigger problem at age 12 or 13 when she no longer wanted to go to school or hang out with friends. .
School never bothered me; I liked hanging out with my friends, said the 17-year-old from Nassau County. When it started preventing me from doing those things, we realized it needed to be addressed.
Working with doctors on a course of therapy and medication helped the teenager get back on track. She learned various coping skills and methods to prevent anxiety from taking over her daily life.
Julia said she decided to share her own struggle with anxiety to raise awareness of the need for more services and the pavilion.
I thought if I felt confident enough to come forward and share my story, it would help others relate to it, she said.
The new 200,000-square-foot Child and Adolescent Mental Health Pavilion will share an entrance with Cohen Children’s Medical Center and will be adjacent to Zucker Hillside Hospital, which focuses on behavioral health, giving young patients easy access to specialists from the two hospitals.
In addition, the new pavilion will house outpatient services, such as support groups and other programs. There is no set timeline for construction, but Schleien said they hope to have it built and open within the next three to five years.
Many children who have serious mental health problems also have physical ailments, Schleien said. And many children who need complex chronic care also have mental health problems.
Adolescents requiring hospitalization may have more severe symptoms and require intensive treatment that is not available on an outpatient basis.
Young said Northwells’ expansion of behavioral health services ranges from digital apps to help adolescents and adults struggling with stress and sleep, to placing therapists in pediatric primary care offices and training school officials to work with clinicians to recognize signs of depression and anxiety.
There is also a pilot plan to place therapists in faith-based groups and provide training for some staff members.
We want to bring behavioral assistance to where people are, he said, where they work, learn, worship.
In addition, Northwell has partnered with local school districts to create three urgent care centers for children across Long Island.
It’s good to hear there will be more beds for adolescents, said Karen Burstein, president and CEO of the Family Service League, a Huntington-based nonprofit that provides mental health services. There aren’t enough of them on Long Island.
Borstein said that while there are many therapists, it is often difficult for nonprofits to find psychiatrists who are board certified in child and adolescent psychiatry.
If Northwell is able to do that, that’s great, she said. That’s another piece of the puzzle.
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