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Dayton Children’s Hospital announces plans for new free-standing pediatric mental health care center

DAYTON — Dayton Children’s Hospital is planning to build a new free-standing mental health building to expand services and co-locate existing ones.

Hospital officials made the announcement Monday morning alongside Gov. Mike DeWine, stating the hospital would be receiving $25 million from the American Rescue Plan to help build the facility.

DeWine announced the $25 million came from the “Pediatric Behavioral Health Initiative,” an $84 million investment with the goal to increase get services and supports for their behavioral health needs in or near their communities. The initiative used dedicated American Rescue Plan investments to expand infrastructure and strengthen local partnerships so Ohio kids can get the specialty care they need.

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“The need to increase access to behavioral health care has been growing nationwide for years,” DeWine stated.

Statistics showed that there was a 163 percent increase in children hospitalized for mental health from 2020 to 2021 across the country, according to a release from Dayton Children’s Hospital.

Hospital officials said the COVID-19 pandemic “exacerbated” children’s mental health concerns. Hospital president and CEO, Deborah Feldman, called behavioral health “the health care crisis of this generation.”

“Dayton Children’s has been racing to keep up with the demand with added services every year, but the need is overwhelming and just continues to grow. We know we must do more. We are fighting for children’s lives,” Feldman stated in a release.

According to hospital officials, there was a need for more space. Despite opening a 24-bed mental and behavioral health inpatient until in July 2019, over 170 children had to stay in regular medical rooms in February while they waited for a bed to open up.

By 2029, the expected need for pediatric behavioral health inpatient beds is 45-50, approximately double what the need was in 2020, according to a release.

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“With this new building we can keep more of our children closer to home and keep more families together. We will bring together all the services that a child facing a behavioral health crisis will need across the spectrum of their journey,” Kelly Blankenship, associate chief medical officer, said.

The new facility will:

  • Double the number of behavioral health inpatient beds currently available at Dayton Children’s
  • Allow expansion for specialized program development
  • Allow for strengthened and smoother continuity of care by bringing behavioral health inpatient, outpatient and crisis services all under one roof
  • Provide customized outdoor space that is critical to healing
  • Create operational efficiencies and improved communication through cross-trained staff, proximity and access

Officials said groundbreaking for the new facility is expected in spring 2023 and they anticipate it to open in Spring 2025.

Six other hospitals and health centers across the state, including Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center, are also receiving funding from the “Pediatric Behavioral Health Initiative,” DeWine announced Monday.