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Mental Health Update

MENTAL HEALTH UPDATE Initiative Attracts Top-Notch Talent

Members of the CHKD mental health staff gather at the construction site of the new Children’s Pavilion with their leadership team, including (front row, L to R) Amy Sampson, senior vice president, chief engagement and innovation officer; Jack Warburton, vice president of mental health services; Stephanie Osler, LCSW, director of mental health services; Dr. Carl Petersen, chief of psychiatry and mental health services; Dr. Mary Margaret Gleason, vice chief of mental health services; Alice Mullinary, RN, director of mental health nursing; Diana Schofield, director of psychology; and Dr. Daniel Spencer, associate chief of mental health services.


CHKD’s historic and transformative commitment to pediatric mental health has resulted in the recruitment of top-notch talent, despite a severe nationwide shortage of mental health providers. In 2018, our mental health program had a single child and adolescent psychiatrist. Today, we have 10 and are on our way to reaching the total required to provide a comprehensive array of inpatient and outpatient mental health services.

Taking the helm and leading this rapid growth is Dr. Carl Petersen, CHKD’s new chief of psychiatry and mental health services. A retired U.S. Navy captain, Dr. Petersen brings a wealth of experience overseeing mental health initiatives and programs. He spent the last 10 years of his military career at Naval Medical Center Portsmouth, retiring as its director of mental health. “CHKD is a very special place,” says Petersen. “It is woven into the fabric of this community. This new hospital represents hope to our children and families, and a remarkable opportunity for all of us to make a significant impact on their future.”

Dr. Mary Margaret Gleason, vice chief of CHKD’s mental health services, is heading up our academic and research efforts. Dr. Gleason is triple board certified in pediatrics, general psychiatry and child and adolescent psychiatry. She is a national figure in the mental health arena, recognized for leading residency training programs at Tulane and Brown University medical schools and contributing to mental health treatment guidelines for the American Academy

of Pediatrics and the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. “Mental health problems don’t get better on their own,” she says. “We need to offer children and families tools, skills, therapy, and in some cases, medication, so they can function to the best of their ability, learn, make friends, and build relationships.” Dr. Daniel Spencer serves as associate chief of mental health services at CHKD. His primary clinical responsibilities are in consultation-liaison and emergency psychiatry, and he is actively engaged in the development and coordination of inpatient and intensive programs for the new facility. “I am so proud of CHKD and my colleagues,” “This new hospital represents he says. “This is the opportunity of a lifetime. hope to our children and families.” We are bringing the – Dr. Carl Petersen, CHKD’s chief of psychiatry and mental health services. best that mental health care can offer to this community.” Before joining CHKD, Dr. Spencer served as psychiatry co-director of Hasbro Children’s Hospital’s integrated care medical psychiatric inpatient program. He is triple board certified in pediatrics, psychiatry, and child and adolescent psychiatry. In addition to these key leaders, the total number of mental health employees at CHKD has more than doubled – growing from 30 to 73, with a few hundred more to come. “We’re very proud of the talented team we are assembling,” says Dr. Petersen. “And the community is already benefiting from our progress. From 2015 to 2020, we increased the number of mental health visits by 500 percent.”

MENTAL HEALTH UPDATE Building a Brighter Future

The centerpiece of CHKD’s mental health initiative is our new pediatric mental health hospital and outpatient center, now under construction on our Norfolk campus. The 14-story, $224 million Children’s Pavilion will stand out among the nation’s top pediatric mental health hospitals for its thoughtful patient- and family-centered design, evidence-based treatments, academic training programs, and clinical research to guide innovation.

“Even before the pandemic, our youth were in crisis. Today, the need is even greater,” says Jim Dahling, president and CEO of CHKD Health System. “A decade ago, visits to our emergency department for mental health concerns were rare. Now, we are seeing five to 10 children in crisis every day. One recent evening, we cared for an 11-year-old who had attempted suicide for the second time, a 15-year-old with extremely aggressive behavior who was threatening to harm his parents and himself, and a 9-year-old who was hearing voices.”

“These are not extreme examples,” he says. “Our children are dying every day by suicide. The time is now, and the responsibility is ours, to provide the mental health services our children need.”

Support from the community is vital to achieving this goal. The Lighting the Way campaign, led by a cabinet of community leaders and philanthropists, recently announced a fundraising goal of $60 million to bring this immense project to completion. Thanks to many individuals, foundations, and organizations who provided early support, $50 million has already been raised toward this goal.

“We are in awe of the early support this project has received,” says Lighting the Way Cabinet Chair John Lawson. “Now, we are asking for help from our broader community to stretch even further. Every gift will have an impact and nothing will make a greater difference to our community than this initiative. I believe this to be one of the most important projects I’ve ever been involved with, and I hope everyone will consider helping us deliver these critical programs to the children who so desperately need them.”

As construction progresses, the important work of creating the safe, welcoming, family-centered environment inside the tower is in full swing. Construction is on schedule for a planned opening of outpatient services in April of 2022, followed by the launch of inpatient care in late summer.