Daniel Burns, the Director of Crisis Respite Services at Elmcrest Children’s Center, says the Children’s Mental Health Crisis Respite Program is for kids who need more support than they can get at home but don’t need to go to the hospital.

“Currently in our community, there is a very wide gap between what can be done in someone’s home versus what can be done in a hospital,” Burns said.

Children between 5-18 years old can get individual, group and family therapy. Burns says what stands out is one-on-one help.

“[It means] that they have one staff member and one staff member only who is directly supervising them [and] interacting with them to really provide that high level of support,” said Burns.

There will be residences with six bedrooms each where kids can stay. Children can be there for up to three weeks and will continue to get support when they return home. In addition to the professional help, there is a room to play games and a family visit area.

Burns says it’s tailored to what each kid needs.

“Meet kids where they’re at,” he said. “Doing the things that they find value in; teaching the skills that they need specifically; interacting [with] them in the ways that are most appropriate.”

Burns says this program has care that isn’t available for children right now. He calls it the perfect middle ground to help young people and hospitals.

“[It’s] where a lot of people are showing up needing care, needing different types of medical mental health services but it far exceeds the hospital’s ability to actually see them and see them in a timely manner,” said Burns.

That’s where Upstate University Hospital comes in. Officials say they’ve seen a 314% increase in child psychiatric consults in the last five years.

Christopher Lucas, the vice-chairman for intensive services, says the program fills a gigantic need.

“We see a lot of kids who come to the urgent department who are discharged because they don’t need immediate admission, and they return within a few months often with a similar or same problem,” Lucas said. “So having a therapeutic option that is somewhere in between inpatient and outpatient is really useful.”

At Elmcrest, Burns expects the program to help up to 280 children a year. The program has since opened, and Burns says the main goal is to improve young people’s lives.

“We want to be able to help any and all of the kids who are coming to stay here,” said Burns. “Hopefully [they will] not need us again, but we of course would be here if somebody did need to return.”