CHOC Children’s Announces Plans to Address Pediatric Mental Health Crisis

CHOC Children's Mental Health Inpatient CenterCommunity leaders and executives from CHOC Children’s recently announced a transformative initiative to ensure children and adolescents with mental illness receive the health care services and support they currently lack in Orange County’s fragmented system of care.

One in five children experience a diagnosable mental health condition during childhood — about 150,000 children in Orange County alone; yet there are no psychiatric inpatient beds for patients under 12 years in Orange County . Due to the absence of designated space to treat young patients, sometimes children with serious mental health episodes remain in the emergency department for days at a time. In addition, there aren’t enough inpatient psychiatric beds for adolescents either, with many needing to be hospitalized outside of Orange County.

“We recognize that pediatric mental illness has become a nationwide epidemic, and are committed to ending it,” Kimberly Chavalas Cripe, CHOC president and chief executive officer, said. “CHOC and our partners are excited by the opportunity to create a scalable model for pediatric mental health care that other communities nationwide can replicate.”

Establishing a Caring, Healing Home for Children in O.C.

Children’s advocate Sandy Segerstrom Daniels, managing partner, C.J. Segerstrom & Sons, donated a $5 million lead gift to help establish CHOC Children’s Mental Health Inpatient Center. The new center will provide a safe, nurturing place for children ages 3 to 18 to receive care for mental health conditions. It will also provide specialty programming for children ages 11 and younger.

CHOC Children's Mental Health Inpatient CenterLocated on the third floor of CHOC’s Research Building, the Center will feature:

  • 18 beds in a secure, healing environment
  • Outdoor area for recreation
  • Specially trained pediatric staff

Construction is expected to begin by fall 2015 and finish in late 2017.

CHOC has launched a fundraising campaign to raise $11 million for inpatient capital and startup costs, and $16 million to endow the program. CHOC is raising additional funds for outpatient mental health services.


1 in 5 children experience a diagnosable mental health condition during childhood.


Recognizing the urgency to help meet the community’s need, last fall CHOC and Rick and Kay Warren, co-founders of Saddleback Church formed a taskforce — led by Dr. Maria Minon, CHOC chief medical officer, and Dr. Heather Huszti, CHOC chief psychologist, and comprised of community leaders, educators and faith-based advisors — to begin discussing a comprehensive pediatric system of care for patients with mental illness.

CHOC’s support of the pediatric system of care includes:

  • expanding mental health services this year for CHOC patients being treated for serious/chronic illnesses (these children are more likely to have mental health problems, such as depression and severe anxiety, than their healthier peers);
  • opening an intensive outpatient program in 2016 to keep struggling children out of the hospital and assist those who have been released;
  • expanding CHOC’s outpatient eating disorders program by 2016;
  • and continuing to facilitate and work on multiple county-wide projects with the task force.

“We know our plans are ambitious, but they are critical and life-saving. The vision begins with establishing a caring home at CHOC for our children and families to turn to for help,” said Cripe.

To learn how to support CHOC’s mental health campaign, please visit www.choc.org/mentalhealthgiving.

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