3 minute read
Treating Body and Mind
Mental health services expand with new medical-psychiatric unit and special area in emergency department
CHKD recently made two big steps toward its goal of improving access to the most needed mental health services for our region’s children – opening a new medical-psychiatric inpatient unit and a new section of the emergency department specifically to meet the needs of patients with mental health concerns.
The medical-psychiatric unit, located in the main hospital, is designed to provide inpatient care for young people who need both medical treatment and mental health services. For instance, a child with an eating disorder may need medical intervention to treat poor nutrition along with mental health care to target the psychological aspects of the illness. A patient who has overdosed on medication will need to be physically stabilized and provided emotional support to address what led them to be admitted.
The unit is made up of seven private rooms designed to provide a safe environment, even when patients may be struggling with urges to harm themselves. A multipurpose area provides space for therapeutic group activities. Another room provides a place where patients can use sensory stimuli like music or the feeling of special textured surfaces to help manage their emotions.
“It’s a setting where mental health care is integrated into everyday medical interventions,” says Rachel Andam-Mejia, MSN, RN, nursing director of the new unit.
“There is downtime during inpatient medical treatment when the child is recovering in bed, and we’re now able to use that time to provide mental health care, such as teaching coping skills,” says Dr. Daniel Spencer, associate chief of psychiatry and mental health services at CHKD. “It’s a whole-child, integrated approach that helps children while they are here, and also gives them skills for when they go home again.”
Patients with mental health concerns will also have a new space in the emergency department, which was redesigned to include a six-bed area for them. Built with safety in mind, the area gives patients more privacy and is staffed by nurses, mental health coaches, and mental health technicians, along with emergency medicine and other mental health providers.
These two areas are important components of CHKD’s ambitious mental health initiative, the centerpiece of which is the $224 million Children’s Pavilion currently under construction on the hospital’s Norfolk campus.
In addition to 60 inpatient beds, the Pavilion will offer outpatient therapy and partial hospitalization programs. “We’re designing care to meet specific needs in our community, and in the least restrictive settings possible for our patients,” says Dr. Carl Petersen, CHKD’s chief of psychiatry and mental health services.
The Children’s Pavilion will house a variety of medical services, so seeking mental health treatment will be as routine and accepted as any other healthcare service. A CHKD sports medicine clinic and General Academic Pediatrics will move into the building this spring. Outpatient mental health services will open next, followed by the first inpatient beds in the fall.
WRITTEN BY Elizabeth Earley • PHOTOGRAPHY BY Ken Mountain