Children's Hospital Launches Bold Initiative to Address Mental Health Crisis

Virginia governor helps break ground on $224 million mental health hospital

Norfolk, Va, Sept. 17, 2019 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- Eric and Michelle Peterson live every day with the fact that there’s nothing they can do to bring back their daughter, Sarah, who died by suicide five years ago at the age of 15.

Standing before a crowd of more than 500 gathered to celebrate the groundbreaking of Children’s Hospital of The King’s Daughters’ new pediatric mental health hospital, Eric Peterson shared his daughter’s struggle with depression in the hopes that it will help other families avoid such an unimaginable loss.

“We miss Sarah every single day,” Eric Peterson said. “The wonderful facility that is going up on this site is a much-needed step toward ensuring that no other family will have to live every day missing their beloved child.”

Tuesday’s groundbreaking comes at a time when a mental health crisis among youth is unfolding nationwide. Roughly 20 percent of children have a diagnosable mental health condition. And, although early intervention is key to recovery, less than one-fourth receives treatment. Suicide is now the second leading cause of death in youth ages 10 to 24.

In Norfolk, Virginia, children’s hospital officials have responded to the crisis with a visionary plan to transform mental health care across the state. CHKD’s $224-million mental health hospital and outpatient treatment facility will be the centerpiece of a new initiative that provides a full spectrum of mental health care for children, filling a critical shortage of pediatric mental health services statewide.

The 14-story building on the hospital’s main campus, slated to open in 2022, will offer 60 inpatient psychiatric beds, partial hospitalization programs, and an expansion of CHKD’s outpatient therapy services.

Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam, who spoke at the groundbreaking, applauded hospital leaders for developing plans to open a mental health hospital.

 “We as a society, we as a community, need to step up and make sure that all of our children – not only here in Hampton Roads but across the Commonwealth of Virginia – have access to quality and affordable mental health care,” Northam said. 

Like other states across the country, Virginia doctors are treating more children for mental health problems than ever before. At CHKD, the number of outpatient therapy visits and mental health consultations increased by 300 percent over a recent three-year period. A rising number of children are waiting days for inpatient care or must leave the state to find an available bed.

“The crisis is quite literally at our doorstep. On any given day, as many as 10 children come to our emergency department in need of mental health care. And there they wait,” said Jim Dahling, CHKD president and CEO. “The same is happening across our state with even more children waiting months for outpatient mental health care. Our children need more, and deserve better.”

CHKD’s mental health hospital will offer a new level of care with innovative patient-and family-centered design, research-based treatments, and academic training programs for the next generation of child psychiatrists.

All inpatient rooms will be private, with sleeping accommodations for a parent. Patients will have access to an outdoor recreation area, an indoor gym, a music room, and a recording studio. In addition to a rooftop garden, the hospital will feature a soothing multi-sensory room and family lounge areas.

 “We are building hope inside the walls of this new tower,” Dahling told the crowd assembled. “We are shining the light on mental health to raise awareness and to erase stigma.”




Children's Hospital of The King's Daughters will open a 14-story mental health hospital in Norfolk, Va., in 2022. 
Artist rendering courtesy CHKD