Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta announces major initiative to address children’s mental health crisis

ATLANTA-(BUSINESS WIRE)–Behavioral and mental health problems among children have been steadily increasing in recent years. One piece of evidence is that visits to Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta emergency rooms have more than doubled since 2015, now exceeding 4,000 visits per year with an average patient age of nine. The number continues to rise significantly, largely due to COVID-19.

This is a crisis that requires focused attention and a major mobilization of resources and strategic approaches to what has proven to be a complex, cross-generational public health problem.

“This is a tremendous challenge that we are proud to take a leadership position against, and we are resolute in our determination to achieve meaningful, positive change,” said Donna Hyland, president and CEO of Children’s. “We hope that in addition to improving the standard of behavioral and mental health of young people in the South East, there is an opportunity to create an operational plan that our colleagues across the country can benefit from.” In turn, we hope to learn from their successes and expand our own best practices.”

In response, Children’s today announced that it has implemented three strategic pillars of its crisis response plan:

  • Endowment funding of more than $550 million intended to provide significant, ongoing support for the continuation of a long-term care program for children in need,

  • Assembling a top leadership team led by nationally renowned child psychiatrist Dr. John Constantino, Chief of Behavioral and Mental Health, who joined Children’s in August,

  • New campus facilities that will provide opportunities for growth.

With its initial goals achieved, Children’s has launched a comprehensive program that will balance prevention, early intervention and outpatient care, based on the best available clinical research and tailored to the needs of each child.

“In connecting these services with those available in the community, the goal is to establish a full continuum of care to mitigate risk and support mind, brain and behavioral development throughout childhood,” Constantino said. “Through appropriate funding, staffing and facilities – and building on advances in telehealth – our goal is to achieve seamless integration with providers in the nation’s behavioral health ecosystem.”

Atlanta Children’s Zalick Center for Behavioral and Mental Health will serve as the home base for the program. It will be located on a 10-acre site with two office buildings adjacent to the North Druid Hills campus and will be named after benefactors David and Helen Zalick. The new facilities will serve as a place for active collaboration with community partners, research, teaching and family education.

“Today’s announcement underscores our commitment to building a pediatric behavioral and mental health ecosystem that improves outcomes, reduces stigma, and improves access to prevention, diagnosis and treatment,” Hyland added.

For Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta

As the only independent pediatric health system in Georgia, Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta is a trusted leader in children’s care. The nonprofit organization’s mission is to make children better today and healthier tomorrow through more than 60 pediatric specialties and programs, top healthcare professionals and leading research and technology. Children’s is one of the nation’s largest providers of pediatric clinical care, managing more than one million patient visits annually across three hospitals, the Marcus Autism Center, the Center for Advanced Pediatrics, urgent care centers and neighborhoods. Consistently ranked among the top children’s hospitals by US News & World Report, Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta has been impacting the lives of children in Georgia, across the United States and around the world for more than 100 years thanks to generous community support.

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