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Northwell Launches $500 Mil Initiative | To Expand Pediatric Mental Health Services and Access to Care for Children and Teens

As the number of children and adolescents in need of mental health support continues to increase at alarming rates, Northwell Health is investing $350 million over the next five years and launching a $150 million fundraising campaign to expand pediatric behavioral health services across its footprint including creating a new model of care and building a preeminent center of mental health excellence that will bridge the gap between physical and mental health services for children.

The plan includes a $350 million investment from Northwell toward capital, programs, services, and operating costs as well as a goal to fundraise $150 million through philanthropy. The announcement was made at the Cohen Children’s Medical Center Birthday Party, a celebration of four decades of clinical excellence at New York State’s largest children’s hospital. The event, held on November 7 at Citi Field, highlighted Cohen Children’s advancements in pediatric patient care since the hospital’s founding in 1983 and looked ahead to the evolving needs of Northwell’s youngest patients.

The future Child and Adolescent Mental Health Pavilion will be connected to Cohen Children’s Medical Center and Zucker Hillside Hospital, Northwell’s adult mental health facility, in Queens, NY. The approximately 200,000-square-foot building will fully integrate physical and mental health care for children and serve as a destination program for patients across the country. The new pavilion will include more than 100 inpatient beds designed for and dedicated to children and adolescents and will also be home to specialty ambulatory clinics treating a variety of disorders. The initiative will bring together Northwell’s extensive expertise in children’s clinical care, mental health, leading-edge research, education and medical training to set a new standard for care.

“Looking back at the tremendous achievements of Cohen Children’s Medical Center over the last 40 years, we celebrate its evolution from a local community hospital to a leading pediatric academic medical center handling some of the most complex problems kids face,” said Michael J. Dowling, Northwell president and CEO. “We treat life-threatening injuries, develop innovative cancer therapies and perform organ transplants, which transform the lives of our patients and their families. But we know mental health is health. Our mission to treat patients fully also includes the mental wellbeing of our young patients.”

In the United States, nearly one in five children is diagnosed with a behavioral, emotional or mental health disorder, but only 20 percent of those diagnosed receive specialized treatment, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Suicide is the second-leading cause of death among children aged 10 to 14 and the third-leading cause among those aged 15 to 24.

“For far too long, mental health care has been fraught with stigma and disparities in access, and we are determined to create a new model of care so that every child’s mental wellbeing receives the same care as their physical health,” said Charles Schleien, MD, senior vice president of pediatric services at Northwell and the Philip Lanzkowsky, MD Professor & Chair of Pediatrics at the Donald and Barbara Zucker School of Medicine at Hofstra/Northwell. “As the largest provider of pediatric services in New York State, we are enhancing our holistic approach and strengthening our continuum of care so that children in need will have access to the very best evidence-based treatments. This investment will break the archaic siloed approach in which physical health is addressed at one facility and mental health at another by fully integrating physical and mental health care for children.”

Through Cohen Children’s Medical Center, Northwell currently operates pediatric behavioral health urgent care centers in Nassau and Suffolk counties. The centers are working directly with Long Island school districts and parents to deliver short-term treatment to young patients while connecting them with long-term assistance when it is needed. Northwell’s school-based programs reach 200,000 students in more than 330 Long Island schools and have reduced emergency room visits for mental health issues by 61 percent.

“Treating mental illness early can save a child’s life,” said John Q. Young, MD, senior vice president of behavioral health at Northwell and professor and chair, department of psychiatry, Donald and Barbara Zucker School of Medicine at Hofstra/Northwell. “We must transform care models and fully integrate with pediatric services to care more effectively for children and adolescents facing a behavioral health crisis.”

Also present at the Citi Field celebration were 17-year-old patient, Julia, and her parents. The family shared a video championing Julia’s journey facing depression and anxiety with the help of experts at Cohen Children’s. Watch Julia’s story.

“Inventing a new model for child and adolescent mental health is a mission-based initiative for Northwell that is dependent on philanthropy,” said Brian T. Lally, senior vice president and chief development officer for Northwell. “It can fuel tremendous momentum to set a national standard that will dramatically change lives, and above all, it’s the right thing to do.”

The Cohen Children’s Medical Center 40th Birthday Party raised $4 million for pediatric mental health services, including a $1 million gift from principal event sponsor the Blumenfeld family. This brings the total to $27 million raised toward the $150 million fundraising goal. The effort is part of Northwell’s Outpacing the Impossible comprehensive campaign, a $1.4 billion philanthropic initiative that supports Northwell’s promise to the people it serves. The campaign’s objectives include improving hospitals and clinical programs, accelerating research and funding endowment.


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