KNOXVILLE, Tenn (WATE) — The East Tennessee Children’s Hospital is launching a new mental health initiative and asking the community for help as they build funding. The new fund was made out of an abundance of necessity for the hospital as it has seen an increase in behavioral health struggles.
In a letter sent to the Hellen Ross McNabb Center from the children’s hospital, behavioral health-related visits to the E.R. are up 95 percent. This is a result of the current mental health crisis among the youth.
“Mental health has always been here forever and we’ve known that but there has been a significant increase in the last three years. As that continued to increase there were fewer and fewer places for us to have children placed for long term,” Vice President of Patient Care and Chief Nursing Officer Ron Philips said. “So, they are boarding in our emergency room and our hospital. ‘Boarding’ just means that we are not providing the care they need we are just giving them a safe place to be. So as that number continues to rise we knew we had to do something different.”
According to a recent study by the Pediatric Health Information System, one in five kids will struggle with mental health issues and nearly 50 percent of children who go to an emergency room for mental health struggles and do not receive proper care attempt suicide within the next six months.
It is not just teenagers, the hospital saw a large increase in younger kids as well.
“The younger children which make another large piece of it, we have a really significant spike right before standardized testing exams occurred this year,” Philips said. “It kind of caught all of us by surprise, but that’s the pressure that those kids were under in third grade to pass their exam. They were telling us they don’t want to be held back.”
All of the funds donated to the hospital go toward much-needed items for the kids that are there currently to help make the environment better for them.
“Part of it will be continuing some of the things that we do,” Philips said. “We do universal screening making sure we continue to do that. Universal screening is nothing more than screening anyone over the age of 12 for significant depression, mental illness, behavioral issues and things like that.”
Philips also said East Tennessee Children’s Hospital has put several practices in place along with this new initiative like a child psychiatrist, cognitive behavior therapies and the state’s first crisis stabilization unit.