A Cincinnati family has made a transformational donation to support the creation of Cincinnati Children’s new Mental and Behavioral Health Institute (MBHI).
The announcement was made during Cincinnati Children’s annual Kaleidoscope event, which benefited the health system’s mental health services.
The $15 million gift from The James J. and Joan A. Gardner Family Foundation-represented by the Gardners’ children Peggy Johns and Linda Mueller- will help the national leader in pediatric mental healthcare and research accelerate and scale up its work to address a growing crisis facing America’s youth.
“It is no secret that our children and teens are struggling like never before and have an unprecedented need for anxiety and depression care. We are witnessing a heartbreaking surge in youth suicide,” says Steve Davis, MD, MMM, president and CEO. “We stand committed to addressing this country’s mental health challenges, from expanding access to care to conducting vital research that will improve outcomes. The generous gift from The James J. and Joan A. Gardner Family Foundation provides critical resources for achieving this mission, together.”
Cincinnati Children’s commitment to advancing the research and treatment of child and adolescent mental health goes back more than two decades. This leadership gift from The James J. and Joan A. Gardner Family Foundation will expand and accelerate that work.
“It is our hope that the new institute will transform how patients and their families address and navigate the mental health challenges our young population is facing. We know that the need is more apparent than ever and that the establishment of the MBHI will have an immediate effect and lasting impact upon the children in our community and their families. From expanding access to behavioral health providers in primary care settings to creating a family navigation system, the institute is focused on the ultimate goal of freeing children from mental illness,” says Ellie Johns, Trustee of The James J. and Joan A. Gardner Family Foundation.
“We have seen how difficult it can be to navigate the mental health space for children and their families,” adds Adam Mueller, Trustee of The James J. and Joan A. Gardner Family Foundation. “There are amazing doctors and healthcare providers, albeit not enough of them, and simply finding them and getting the right support for your child can be extremely difficult. We believe the new institute will address these concerns and provide a path forward for improved care.”
Thanks to the support from The James J. and Joan A. Gardner Family Foundation, Cincinnati Children’s is working to improve access to quality mental healthcare and implementing early interventions to help all kids reach their full potential.
“Cincinnati Children’s is a proven leader in integrated mental and behavioral healthcare, and it is our hope that the success and learnings of the MBHI will be modeled globally, impacting children and families far beyond our local community,” says Johns.
The new Mental and Behavioral Health Institute will provide a streamlined organizational structure to coordinate all current and new initiatives, projects and collaborations addressing mental and behavioral health at Cincinnati Children’s. The institute will include:
A deeper integration of three divisions at Cincinnati Children’s: Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, Behavioral Medicine, and Clinical Psychology, and Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics. Plus, enhanced collaboration with all clinical divisions and many research divisions at Cincinnati Children’s.
Examples of collaboration across divisions, including the recently launched Heart and Mind Wellbeing Center and the Integrated Behavioral Health program that embeds mental health professionals at our pediatric primary care clinics.
Combined, the three mental and behavioral care-focused divisions include more than 1,000 care professionals. These teams work in locations including schools, neighborhood primary care clinics, emergency departments, and a state-of-the-art care center opening in October at Cincinnati Children’s College Hill campus.
In addition to providing more inpatient care than any other pediatric health system in the country, Cincinnati Children’s scientists conduct extensive research to improve treatment outcomes. Their teams are developing advanced early warning tools to help clinicians detect when children are on a path to developing anxiety, depression, or suicidal thoughts. And experts in health quality improvement are re-inventing outpatient care to proactively address mental and behavioral health concerns to reduce or eliminate an inpatient hospital stay.
Cincinnati Children’s has launched a national search for a distinguished leader in pediatric mental, behavioral, and developmental health to serve as the institute’s director and drive innovations that accelerate excellence in clinical care, research, education and advocacy.
Children and adolescents across the U.S. are struggling with unprecedented levels of depression, anxiety, emotional dysregulation, traumatic stress, and other serious ailments. In fact, more than half of adults (53%) with children in their households say they are concerned about the mental state of their children.
Unaddressed, these conditions can lead to disrupted school performance, social isolation, self-harm and even suicide. Yet many gaps and shortfalls exist between the availability of mental healthcare for children and teens compared to other forms of healthcare.
Under the new institute, Cincinnati Children’s plans to fully integrate mental healthcare with the other medical care provided. This includes embedding more mental health professionals in primary care clinics, expanding mental and behavioral health training for pediatric clinicians across the Cincinnati region and building a network of family navigators and school liaisons to help connect patients with resources.
“We believe that healthcare has work to do to integrate mental and behavioral health into all medical care and to assure that all children have equitable access to the care they need and deserve. Our Mental and Behavioral Health Institute will serve as a model and a resource that others can turn to as they address the challenges facing their communities,” says Tina Cheng, MD, MPH, director of the Cincinnati Children’s Research Foundation, chair of the Department of Pediatrics, and chief medical officer of the health system.
Addressing the needs of children with mental and behavioral conditions will be a never-ending commitment. Among the new institute’s top priorities:
Decrease mental health emergency visits and hospitalization rates
Reduce school absence due to mental health issues
Eliminate youth suicide in the region
And ultimately ensure that every child gets the care they need when they need it
Achieving these goals will require a combination of innovation, dedicated care professionals and ongoing funding commitments, for which Cincinnati Children’s has a proven track record.
“The James J. and Joan A. Gardner Family Foundation gift marks the beginning of this important mission,” Cheng says. “We have much work to do, but we cannot solve the mental health crisis alone. We value and need our ongoing partnerships with community organizations, schools, and donors. In fact, we will need the support of the entire community to achieve these goals.”