Children's Hospital Renovates Units to Meet Mental and Medical Needs of Children

Renovations part of a mental health initiative that expands services to include a new facility

NORFOLK, Va., March 09, 2022 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) --  

Children’s Hospital of The King’s Daughters has renovated two units in its main hospital to bring interdisciplinary services to patients in need of both medical and mental health care.

A new seven-bed "medical-psychiatric unit" that opened in January cares for patients in need of both medical and mental health care. This coordinated approach is for children who have a primary medical diagnosis and who also need concurrent treatment for mental health concerns. For instance, children who need to be hospitalized due to an eating disorder or a medication overdose will be able to begin psychiatric treatment while their primary medical diagnosis is being stabilized. Other examples include children requiring an admission to CHKD for a chronic medical condition like asthma or diabetes who also need therapeutic interventions for emotional or behavioral concerns.

The rooms are private and are designed with safety as a priority, recognizing that children in mental health crisis may be more vulnerable to endangering themselves or others. A multipurpose room on the unit provides a space for mental health treatment such as group therapy, coping skill development, and mindfulness training. The unit also includes a designated calming room where music, textured wall surfaces, and other techniques can be used to facilitate the de-escalation of emotions and behaviors.

Nursing and mental health staff are specially trained to work together to help this vulnerable population receive the services they need. “It’s a unique setting where mental health care is integrated into everyday medical interventions,” said Rachel Andam-Mejia, MSN, RN, nursing director of patient care services at CHKD.

The medical-psychiatric unit in the main hospital will serve as a bridge for children to begin psychiatric treatment while receiving medical care at CHKD. “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,” said 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.”

At the same time, CHKD also renovated its emergency department to create a six-bed area designated for patients who arrive in mental health crisis. This area also was designed to keep patients, family members, and staff safe, and to give patients more privacy. The area will be staffed with a registered nurse, a mental health therapist, a mental health coach, and a mental health technician to meet the patients’ needs.

This mental-health-focused renovation to the main hospital is a critical component of CHKD’s overall mental health initiative, the centerpiece of which is a 14-story tower currently under construction on the same Norfolk campus as its main hospital. The building, which is named Children’s Pavilion, will have 60 private inpatient beds for psychiatric treatment that will begin opening later this year. Children’s Pavilion, located on Gresham Drive, will also be the hub of a comprehensive mental health outpatient program. Children’s Pavilion will also feature healing amenities like creative expression spaces for music and art therapy, an indoor gym and a rooftop recreation center where hospitalized children can get exercise and fresh air.

The new building will open this spring with outpatient services including primary care pediatrics, CHKD’s sports medicine program, and outpatient mental health care. The goal is to provide an environment that integrates access to mental health services into other routine services in order to de-stigmatize the identification and treatment of psychiatric conditions within the pediatric population. Inpatient psychiatric services are expected to begin in the fall.

While Children’s Pavilion has been under construction, the mental health team has already expanded and is treating more children than ever. Since the mental health initiative was launched in 2018, CHKD has grown its mental health team from one full-time child and adolescent psychiatrist who was part of a 30-member team to 12 psychiatrists on a team of more than 100. The number of mental health visits and consultations has grown from 14,385 in 2018 to 25,745 during fiscal year 2021.

This mental health initiative is unfolding at a time when 20 percent of the nation’s children have a diagnosable mental health condition, and during a pandemic that has fueled anxiety and depression in children because of social isolation, along with illness, death, and job loss in their families. The urgency of the need was highlighted by the U.S. Surgeon General in December when he issued an advisory about the nation’s youth mental health crisis, acknowledging the pandemic has only worsened a long-standing escalation of pediatric mental health needs and a shortage of resources to address the epidemic.

CHKD is answering this call to action by expanding its mental health program as rapidly as possible, even while addressing the challenges of a pandemic. Still, many families continue to wait for these services. Your support is critical to this initiative. The community has raised $61 million toward this project through the Lighting the Way campaign, exceeding a preliminary goal which has now been elevated to $75 million to help CHKD fulfill the needs of the community. To learn more about the mental health initiative, visit this Lighting the Way link


CHKD is the only freestanding children’s hospital in Virginia and serves the medical and surgical needs of children throughout greater Hampton Roads, the Eastern Shore of Virginia, and northeastern North Carolina. The not-for-profit CHKD Health System operates primary care pediatric practices, surgical practices, multi-service health centers, urgent care centers, and satellite offices throughout its service region. In 2019, CHKD broke ground on Children's Pavilion, a 60-bed, 14-story hospital and outpatient center to address the mental health crisis facing our youth. The new tower being built on CHKD’s campus in Norfolk is scheduled to open in 2022. Learn more at



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