Dell Children's to create inpatient mental healthcare unit for adolescents

One in five children are affected by mental illness, but there is currently no pediatric inpatient care facility in Central Texas where children can go. Dell Children's Medical Center plans to change that.

"I think it's really hard to acknowledge that children have mental illness, so we don't want to talk about it. We don't want to think about it. We're hoping it will go away,” said Sonia Krishna, MD, psychiatrist Dell Children’s Medical Center.

It doesn't go away. In fact, according to Integral care, suicide is the second leading cause of death here in Travis County among adolescents ages 12-17.

When children get to the point of being in crisis they come to the emergency room. There, they will wait until an inpatient care facility is located which could be days.

"So if you come to the emergency room now and you're in a state of crisis it's not very fun to get shipped across town after waiting hours and then go through another admission process because now you're in a new hospital,” said Krishna.

Kate Peoples remembers that process. She struggled with anorexia as a teen. Her diagnosis required travelling to Dallas for proper treatment.

"Because it meant splitting up our family system we pretty much waited until I was in crisis to access a higher level of care and that's not how treatment should work out. Treatment should be a continuum of care,” said Peoples.

On Monday, the Nyle Maxwell Family announced a challenge grant to establish a 24 patient bed facility inside of Dell Children's Medical Center.

"For the first time our children will be able to be transferred from the ER and not have to wait for days to be transferred to another facility,” said Nyle Maxwell.

The center will be named the Grace Grego Maxwell Mental Heath Unit. Construction starts in six months. It should be completed in the Spring of 2018.

"Early intervention is so essential,” said Peoples.

"This is huge. This is amazing. This is what I believe in,” said Krishna.

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