SwedishAmerican Approved to Add Child Psychiatric Beds to ease Shortage of Care for Children

SwedishAmerican’s Board of Directors, yesterday, approved the expansion of the child/adolescent behavioral health program within SwedishAmerican’s Center for Mental Health (CFMH) unit. The additional beds will increase the unit’s total beds from 32 to 42, which will allow SwedishAmerican to create a new 16-bed Child and Adolescent unit to help ease a severe shortage of inpatient psychiatric care for children in the Rock River Valley. The unit will care for children ages 5 – 17 years of age.

SwedishAmerican will be the only hospital in Rockford to offer child psychiatric beds. The last local facility to treat pediatric psychiatric inpatients was Singer Mental Health Center, which closed in 2012.

“The need is great for these additional beds to improve access to inpatient pediatric mental healthcare in the Rockford region,” says Ann Gantzer, vice president of health and patient services at SwedishAmerican. “The closest mental health center to treat children is more than 50 miles away in Streamwood. The expanded number of beds at SwedishAmerican will reduce the need to divert and transfer patients to other facilities outside of our region.”

Part of the CFMH, currently located on the fourth floor of the hospital, would be renovated to accommodate the proposed new Child and Adolescent unit, which will cost approximately $2 million. It will include two large multi-purpose rooms, one recreation room, one sensory room, three conference rooms to hold therapy sessions and new staff area. An additional child and adolescent psychiatrist and child and adolescent focused advanced practice nurse (APN) will be hired and work with the other providers and support staff of CFMH.

Over the past two years, 73 children between the ages of five and 11 years old in need of psychiatric hospitalization were transferred from SwedishAmerican’s Emergency Department (ED), resulting in 130 referrals. All of them had to be sent to other mental health centers throughout the state to find an available bed.

“The additional beds will help us fulfill our commitment to the community, caring for our most vulnerable children and families who are impacted by mental illness,” says Dr. Evan Silvi, child and adolescent psychiatrist at SwedishAmerican. “We recognize that when parents bring their child to our ED, they are putting their trust in us and want their child to be treated by SwedishAmerican and stay here locally.”

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, one in five kids ages 13 to 18 either have or will have a serious mental illness. About half of all lifetime cases of mental illness begin by age 14 and three-fourths by age 24. Suicide is the second leading cause of death among youth ages 10 to 24.

The CFMH 10 additional beds are part of SwedishAmerican’s $130 million expansion project announced in April. The project includes the construction of a new state-of-the-art women’s and children’s tower and Level III neonatal intensive care unit (NICU); modernizations and expansions in our emergency department, surgical area and catheterization labs; and the creation all private in-patient rooms throughout the existing hospital. The CFMH project requires approval by the Illinois Health Facilities and Services Review Board and currently is on the agenda for the Review Board's September meeting.

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Katryna Kirby