HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WHNT) — Each year, HEMSI transports more than 800 children to places outside of Madison County for inpatient psychiatric care.
About half of those children go to Decatur West in Morgan County and the rest go “wherever space is available,” according to WellStone. “Patients can wait hours, and sometimes days, for a bed.”
On Monday, construction crews broke ground on an inpatient mental health crisis care facility for children and adolescents.
WellStone said the 24-bed, 12,000-square-foot facility is scheduled for completion in 2024 and will be the ‘first of its kind’ in Madison County. The pediatric wing will be adjacent to WellStone Emergency Services (WES), which opened its facility last fall on the main campus in Huntsville.
Like the adult center, WellStone said that the pediatric wing will feature a warm, healing, non-institutional environment close to home.
The addition is intended to bring stabilization, diagnosis, treatment and follow-up care for children and adolescents experiencing severe depression, extreme anxiety, suicidal ideation, self-harm, and other mental health-related crises.
“Everyone agrees that children in our community need and deserve compassionate inpatient care without having to travel far from home,” said Jeremy Blair, WellStone CEO. “WES is already making a huge difference for adults. We urgently need to do the same for children.”
WellStone added that the U.S. is still in a National State of Emergency regarding children and adolescents’ mental health. Suicide is reported to be the second leading cause of death for children ages 10 to 14, and last week, Surgeon General Vivek Murthy announced to Congress, ‘…our kids can’t afford to wait’ for mental healthcare resources.
JJ Jayne is the grandmother of a child who was in dire need of emergency mental health care. Due to the lack of a pediatric wing in the area, she said they waited 24 hours in the ER before having to go 4 hours away to get the care the child needed.
Jayne told News 19 she’s donated and has been supporting the process of getting the Pediatric wing built.
“We really thought it was important to support at the end of last year and get the building going because we need it to be up and running for us, but we need it for others as well. But, if you can I would really encourage it because, if it’s not your child, it’s somebody in a family that you know, for sure, because it’s that prevalent and it’s not going to decrease,” Jayne said. “Parents just need to know that there is help out there and that it’s okay to talk about it because it is just like any other health issue, absolutely.”
Anyone looking to support this project can donate to WellStone’s ‘Be the Rock’ capital campaign by visiting their website.