AUSTIN, Texas — Dell Children’s Medical Center of Central Texas is opening its newest unit that will provide mental health services for children and teens.
The Grace Grego Maxwell Mental Health Unit will include 24 inpatient beds and will also include an intensive outpatient program and a partial hospital program. The Texas Child Study Center, the outpatient component of the program, will continue to provide services and is run in partnership with the University of Texas.
Psychiatrists and psychologists will treat conditions like depression, suicidal ideation and bipolar disorder.
“This new model for coordinated care will allow us to diagnose and treat children with mental needs before, during and after a crisis,” Dr. Sonia Krishna, Dell Children’s child and adolescent psychiatrist, said.
When she was 15 years old, Kate Peoples was diagnosed with anorexia. Inspired by her own therapists, the 27-year-old is now a social worker and helps adolescents going through a mental health crisis.
"This doesn’t have to be something that’s with them for the rest of their lives and there’s a team of people to ensure that isn’t the case," Peoples said.
But Peoples is still seeing some of same lack of continuity of care when it comes to mental health. When she was a teenager, she would have to travel out of state for treatment.
“We’re sending people all over the place," she said. "We don’t really have one centralized unit.”
Dell Children's leaders also hope to change that by streamlining access by providing care all under one roof.
“By the integration of mental and physical, we’ll do a better job of allowing children and adolescents to reach their full potential,” Christopher Born, president of Dell Children's, said.
The opening comes as a new report in the Journal of Pediatrics said the percentage of patients seen at children’s hospitals for suicidal thoughts or attempts doubled between 2008 to 2015. Krishna said the research shows there is a crisis in the community and there is a need to provide care beyond hospital emergency rooms.
“People are scared to go to a mental health hospital. They don’t know what happens there. They just go off of what they’ve read or what they’ve seen in movies," Krishna said. "When you make it look like this and have a really warm supportive staff, they’ll feel more comfortable sharing the things that are actually going on for them.”
“The new Grace Grego Maxwell Mental Health Unit would simply not be opening without the generosity of this community. As a mom and member of Dell Children’s staff, I am proud to know that I live in a place that wants to continually do better and be better,” Kristi Katz, executive director of Dell Children’s Medical Center Foundation, said.
Historically, children and teens seeking mental health treatment were sent to Seton Shoal Creek Hospital, which is an old facility that also serves adults. All the adolescent patients there now will be moved to Dell Children's new mental health unit on Monday morning.