Children’s Minnesota Unveils New Children’s Mental Health Hospital Unit

Children’s Minnesota unveiled its new Child and Adolescent Mental Health Unit on Thursday, its response to the mental health crisis that has affected children across the state in recent years.

The new unit in downtown St. Paul has been four years in the making, but the recent $97.2 million mental health reform bill allowed the hospital to add even more to the space, including beds for parents to stay in rooms with the child you are The department will open its doors in a few weeks and is intended for children and adolescents aged 6 to 18 years.

“To all the families out there whose children are struggling with their mental health … to all those families I say, have hope,” said Sue Abderholden, executive director of NAMI Minnesota, at Thursday’s event to mark the new facility. “I hope this new unit at Children’s will be able to treat your child and relieve their symptoms so they can just be kids.”

The number of children experiencing mental health crises has increased dramatically over the past few years. Hospitals and medical facilities in Minnesota are often at capacity, and earlier this year M Health Fairview Masonic Children’s Hospital had to turn an ambulance unit into a makeshift facility. The new unit is expected to serve around 1,000 children a year.

In adolescent mental health treatment, there are different levels of care depending on what the patient needs at any given time, doctors explained at the event. As children recover or require an increased level of care, they are often moved to different facilities and programs.

Now, children who are admitted for mental health crises will be able to stay in the children’s system to have an on-site inpatient care program. Dr Joel Spalding, who specializes in pediatric psychiatry in the children’s ward, says the new unit will “dramatically” change mental health treatment at the hospital.

“First and foremost … our emergency departments handled the mental health patients,” Spalding said. “As soon as they’re medically stable, we’re looking at other systems for those beds.”

This means that doctors sometimes have to communicate a child’s needs across two or more systems to make sure they are getting the right care at each level of care.

“What we were able to see is that there is at least a 25 percent failure rate at each of these times,” said Dr. Gigi Chawla, chief of general pediatrics at Children’s. “If you make a recommendation, there’s a 25% chance it won’t turn out the way you wanted it to.”

Chawla said part of the goal is to reduce the number of children who fail to transition properly to new levels of care. Children’s already has a partial hospitalization facility in Lakeville and will open another in Roseville early next year.

With colorfully painted walls, play therapy and quiet rooms, the new facility is designed with safety in mind. Each of the 22 patient rooms is also equipped with a modern lighting system that changes the temperature and intensity of artificial lighting.

Chawla said the lights, along with large windows in every room, can be helpful for people with mental illness, especially those with seasonal affective disorder.

Each room has two beds, although it is designed as a separate room. So parents can stay on the ward with their child if this is an appropriate part of the treatment.

“It’s a family-oriented model,” said Pat Vitale, director of outpatient specialty care at Children’s. “We need to help families also be able to understand what they can do to support their child.” As with any other disease.’

Where can I find help?

Families can find mental health information and crisis care resources on the NAMI Minnesota website,

If you or someone you know is struggling with suicidal thoughts, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-TALK (8255) or call 988. You can also text HOME to 741741, to connect with a counselor on the crisis text message line.

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