CHOC Children’s Celebrates Completion of Mental Health Inpatient Center

CHOC Children’s leaders joined with mental health supporters today to celebrate the completion of our pediatric health care system’s Mental Health Inpatient Center, which will provide the first psychiatric inpatient beds in Orange County for children younger than 12 years old.

Set to open in April 2018, the 12,000-square foot, 18-bed facility will serve children ages 3 to 17. It is the only facility in California to offer all private rooms, as well as an option for parents to stay overnight with their children, as appropriate.

One in five children experience a diagnosable mental health condition during childhood — about 150,000 children in Orange County alone. Previously, the absence of designated space to treat young patients and a shortage of beds for adolescents in Orange County meant that often children with serious mental health episodes remained in emergency departments for days at a time waiting for a bed in an outside county.

One of the Center’s activity rooms.

“For the first time, Orange County children younger than 12 experiencing a mental health crisis will have a place for care close to home,” CHOC President and CEO Kimberly Chavalas Cripe said. “The Center’s completion is evidence of CHOC’s commitment to ensuring that every Orange County youth receives the mental health care services they need in a safe and healing environment.”

The Center’s other unique features include two sensory rooms – one sensory-rich and the other low-stimulation to help children learn to manage strong emotions and calm themselves. In addition, the facility includes a 3,600-square-foot outdoor play area with sensory activities and a basketball court.

The Center’s innovative floor plan was designed with guidance from national experts and incorporates elements of several exemplary programs observed by CHOC staff. It was built with two primary goals in mind: patient safety and creating an optimal healing environment. The facility incorporates safety features such as shatterproof glass, special high-density materials, doors that open one at a time, and many other measures. The design includes elements of nature, curved features and a soothing color palette to promote healing and relaxation.

With pediatric psychiatrist Dr. Hoang “Wayne” D. Nguyen as its medical director, the Center will offer specialty programming to children 12 and younger. Patients will participate in therapeutic programming seven days per week, which is unique among inpatient facilities. During their stay, typically five to seven days, patients will also have access to medical specialists if assessments suggest a relationship between the mental health condition and an underlying health issue.

CHOC broke ground on the Center in September 2016. The Center was announced in May 2015 as the centerpiece of a pediatric system of mental health care that would be scalable and replicable by other health systems nationwide.

“CHOC is committed to the truth that mental health is as important as physical health,” Cripe said. “Put simply, health is health. We want to create a system that others can replicate and help empower health systems across the country to support children’s mental health.”

CHOC’s broad and robust pediatric system of mental health care has been built to facilitate early diagnosis, intervention and treatment of pediatric mental health problems.

The system’s components include the ASPIRE® (After School Program Interventions and Resiliency Education) Intensive Outpatient Program at CHOC Children’s, designed to prevent psychiatric hospitalization and re-admission; mental health screenings in primary and specialty care settings; pediatric mental health training for community health care providers, school personnel and therapists; and a co-occurring clinic for patients with mental health challenges complicated by physical illnesses.

Other aspects include mental health triage at the Julia and George Argyros Emergency Department at CHOC Children’s Hospital; an early childhood mental health initiative set to begin in spring 2018 that is aimed at reducing behavior-related suspensions from child care and preschool settings; and faith community partnerships.

“While the Mental Health Inpatient Center at CHOC Children’s will support children and families while in crisis, we cannot meet all the needs for pediatric mental health care alone,” Cripe said. “By joining with our community partners, we are working together to ensure that children get the help they need when they need it and where they need it.”

Learn more about CHOC’s mental health services at www.choc.org/mentalhealth.

CHOC Launches Mental Health Intensive Outpatient Program

A new intensive outpatient program at CHOC Children’s will offer solutions to teenagers and their families seeking hope and intervention for emerging mental health problems.

The ASPIRE® (After School Program Interventions and Resiliency Education) Intensive Outpatient Program at CHOC Children’s is designed for teens who show moderate to severe symptoms of anxiety, depression or other mental health problems.

Participants ages 13 to 18 attend after-school programming for three hours a day, four days a week in sessions that span eight weeks total.

Run by experienced, licensed clinicians who specialize in working with teens, ASPIRE incorporates therapy, mindfulness exercises, coping and problem-solving skills, art therapy and other expressive therapies to help teens develop and practice healthy behaviors and how to manage their feelings, emotions and personal interactions.

Parents or guardians also participate in family counseling and skills groups two days a week in the late afternoon and early evening.

A board-certified adolescent psychiatrist is also available for consultation and medication management, as is case coordination with other medical providers and the teen’s school, and crisis support.

Teens who could benefit from the program may exhibit a range of behaviors:

  • Moderate to severe symptoms of anxiety and depression
  • Extreme emotional outbursts
  • Significant conflict with family or friends
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Decreases in functioning at home or school
  • Self-harming behaviors, such as cutting, burning, pulling out hair, excessive picking and scratching the body to cause bleeding

Time in the program is spent on identifying interventions that can aid participants in a variety of ways:

  • Improve symptoms of depression and anxiety
  • Improve functioning at home, school, and with friends
  • Develop new skills to cope with stress.
  • Establish new and healthy behaviors to learn how to manage feelings, emotions, and personal interactions.

ASPIRE® is a component of CHOC’s landmark pediatric mental health system of care launched in spring 2015 to ensure children, adolescents and young adults with mental illness get the services and support they need.

The system of care also includes outpatient support for patients whose physical conditions are complicated by mental health challenges; mental health screenings for all 12-year-olds at their well child visits with CHOC pediatricians; and an increased presence of psychologists and social workers in the Julia & George Argyros Emergency Department at CHOC Children’s Hospital.

The cornerstone of the wide-ranging effort is the CHOC Children’s Mental Health Inpatient Center, set to open this spring at CHOC Children’s Hospital. With 18 beds, it will be the first unit in Orange County to accommodate children younger than 12.

Call 714-509-8481 to refer a patient to the ASPIRE® (After School Program Interventions and Resiliency Education) Intensive Outpatient Program at CHOC Children’s.

American College of Surgeons Grants CHOC Prestigious Trauma Center Verification

CHOC Children’s Hospital has been verified by the American College of Surgeons as a Level II pediatric trauma center.  This achievement recognizes CHOC’s commitment to providing the highest quality trauma care to injured patients.  CHOC opened its trauma center in 2015.  It is Orange County’s only trauma center focused exclusively on children.

To earn verification, CHOC submitted an extensive application and data.  This was followed by a site visit from a team of surgeons.  They commended CHOC for exceptional work in several areas, including support by the medical staff, nursing educational excellence and the commitment of hospital administration.

Dr. David Gibbs, director, trauma services, and Amy Waunch., MSN, FNP, CEN, trauma program manager
Dr. David Gibbs, director, trauma services, and Amy Waunch., MSN, FNP, CEN, trauma program manager

“Our team of pediatric subspecialists, nurses and staff are dedicated to providing the highest levels of care to   seriously injured children, from the moment they arrive to the day they go home.  Our goal is to give each patient the best chance of survival and recovery,” says Dr. David Gibbs, director, trauma services, CHOC. “We are honored to serve the children and families in Orange County, and are proud to join an elite group of hospitals committed to improving pediatric trauma care.”

As a verified Level II pediatric trauma center, CHOC is a referral resource for communities in Orange County and surrounding regions, and provides:

  • 24-hour coverage by board-certified pediatric trauma surgeons and quick access to pediatric specialties including orthopedic surgery, neurosurgery, anesthesiology, emergency medicine, radiology, internal medicine, plastic surgery, oral and maxillofacial, and critical care
  • Injury prevention and education to the community
  • Continuing education and training for trauma staff
  • Substance abuse screening and patient intervention

CHOC’s trauma center also meets verification standards based on its patient volume and comprehensive quality assessment program.

To be designated a Level II pediatric trauma center, CHOC goes above and beyond to meet the requirements set by Orange County Emergency Medical Services by offering the following.

  • An award-winning pediatric intensive care unit providing intensive and acute care to critically ill surgical and medical patients
  • State-of-the=art operating rooms for performing immediate or emergency surgery using the latest and safest procedures
  • Support services, including child life, social services and psychology, for pediatric patients and their families dealing with traumatic situations
  • Additional hospital services, including a blood bank, radiology and rehabilitation services

Learn more about CHOC’s trauma center.