CHOC Children’s Breaks Ground on Pediatric Mental Health Unit

As part of the transformative mental health initiative that CHOC and other Orange County leaders launched in May 2015, CHOC celebrated the start of construction on the first inpatient mental health center in Orange County.

To commemorate the important milestone, more than 150 leaders from CHOC and the community, including elected officials and members of the mental health task force, gathered for a ceremony at CHOC in support of the initiative, which will ensure children and adolescents with mental illness get the health care services and support they need. Speakers included Kimberly Cripe, CHOC ’s president and chief executive officer, Dr. Heather Huszti, CHOC’s chief psychologist, and Rick and Kay Warren, co-founders of Saddleback Church. The event included a brief tour of the inpatient mental health center currently under construction, highlighted by Kim Cripe breaking down a mock brick wall, as a symbolic display of breaking down barriers associated with mental health.

choc mental health
Designs for CHOC’s inpatient mental health center.

Scheduled to open in early 2018, the center – located on the third floor of CHOC’s Research Building on the main campus in Orange – will provide a safe, nurturing place for children ages 3 to 18, and specialty programming for children younger than 12. The center’s innovative floor plan was designed with guidance from national experts and incorporates elements of several exemplary programs. It will feature 18 private patient rooms in a secure and healing environment including an outdoor playground area to promote exercise and movement. Additional amenities include a multipurpose room, classroom, and a variety of rooms that support activities for children of different ages and needs.

choc mental health
Designs for CHOC’s inpatient mental health center.

Since the announcement of CHOC’s initiative last year, CHOC has made tremendous progress including the launch of an outpatient co-occurring clinic, in conjunction with Orange County Behavioral Health Services, for patients whose physical conditions are complicated by mental health challenges; the launch of mental health screenings for all 12-year-olds at their well child visits in the primary care setting; and through a grant, CHOC’s cystic fibrosis (CF) program expanded its social worker’s availability and has a designated psychologist to help patients and caregivers. CHOC is also completing a pilot in the primary care clinics where a psychologist is present to help the medical team screen for and address mental health issues, and help families address childhood obesity.

Staff training and recruitment is currently underway.

Learn more about how CHOC is changing the way pediatric mental health is treated in Orange County.

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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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Preventing Suicide in Children

Suicide is the third leading cause of death for people ages 10 to 24, which underscores the importance of recognizing depression and warning signs in youth, CHOC Children’s chief psychologist says.

Among others, irritability, sadness, social withdrawal, and changes in sleep and appetite are indicators of depression, says Dr. Heather Huszti. Follow are warning signs that a child may be considering suicide:

  • Gives away possessions
  • Makes out a will
  • Threatens or plans suicide
  • Jokes about committing suicide
  • Sends despairing texts or posts online
  • Expresses feelings of failure or shame
  • Shows signs of major depression
  • Avoids friends
  • Engages in risky behaviors

A nationwide survey by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention which found that more than a quarter of teens in grades 9 through 12 felt sad or hopeless every day for at least two weeks – a key sign of depression. Sixteen percent had seriously considered attempting suicide in the past year, about 13 percent reported creating a plan, and 8 percent said they had tried to take their own life within the previous year.

Dr. Huszti emphasizes that parents must teach children to speak up if they ever consider suicide – or if a friend expresses suicidal thoughts.

“Teach your kids that if someone tells your child they are considering killing themselves, that is serious and not something we keep a secret,” Dr. Huszti says. “You have to tell an adult immediately. Tell your parent or a teacher.”

Adults who become aware of another child’s suicidal thoughts should contact his or her parents. If this isn’t possible, inform the child’s school, Dr. Huszti advises.

Check out CHOC’s website for a comprehensive list of resources and hotlines. In addition, follows are other resources for children and families suffering from depression or suicidal thoughts:

Also, check out “KnowBullying,” a new and free mobile application created by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration in collaboration with StopBulling.gov.

The application provides parents, caretakers, educators and others with information and communication support to help prevent bullying and build resilience in children and teens.

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  • Diagnosing ADHD
    “I help families understand that attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a neurobehavioral disorder. It is not a disorder of effort, character, intelligence, parenting skills or self-control.
  • ADHD and Diet: Fact vs. Fiction
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Overscheduled Kids

TIME OUTpost_kidschess

“There are a number of studies that suggest kids actually do need some unstructured time,” says Dr. Huszti. Kids need moments when they can use their imagination, daydream and even goof off a little bit, she says. And no, this doesn’t mean parents should allow kids to play video games all day.  Instead, try other unstructured-time activities:

  • Going outside to play
  • Playing a board game

FAMILY BONDING

“Kids need some family time,” says Dr. Huszti. “If we find ourselves being overscheduled, we really don’t have that time to bond as a family and develop a strong foundation. Look at what’s important to your family, such as dinners or bedtime reading and carve out time for that,” she says. Make room for family activities at least once per week. Here are some family-fun ideas:

  • Start a family book club
  • Replace organized team sports with family sports

WRITE IT DOWN
To get a handle on how to balance your child’s social and academic calendars, sit down as a family and  create a schedule. “If you look at the schedule and realize we’re really cutting into homework time, or there’s no unstructured or family time, you may be doing too much,” says Dr. Huszti. To keep a good pace, have your child pick two activities per week that they really want to do, and you pick two. If something else comes up, take one away.

What Else Can You Do To Trim Your Child’s Schedule?
Approach the schedule with a “moderation” mentality. If you notice a decline in your child’s grades, or an increase in irritability or sickness, try taking them out of some activities and see what happens, says Dr. Huszti.

FAST FACTS

  • The percent of kids who wish they had more free time: 61%
  • Number of hours of unstructured time recommended per week: 2
  • The percentage of kids who said they felt too busy all the time: 24%

View the full feature on Kids and Overscheduling

Dr. Heather Huszti Psychology
Dr. Heather Huszti
Psychology

PHYSICIAN FOCUS:
DR. HEATHER HUSZTI

Dr. Huszti is a licensed psychologist and has been with CHOC since 2002. She is a member of the American Psychological Association and the Society of Pediatric Psychology. Dr. Huszti served her internship and post-doctorate fellowship at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center.

Dr. Huszti’s philosophy of care: “I want to help kids and families function as optimally as possible. I believe that involves working with the whole family.”

EDUCATION:
University of California, Irvine (B.A., Psychology)
Texas Tech University (Ph.D., Clinical Psychology)
University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center (internship and fellowship)

More about Dr. Huszti

This article was featured in the Orange County Register on September 23, 2013 and was written by Shaleek Wilson.

Talk Openly To Your Kids About Bullying

Bullying continues making headlines with the recent, tragic news of two Minnesota teens who committed suicide, apparently due to being bullied at school.

Cyberbullying, in particular, has become an increasingly common and serious issue largely due to the easy access, and in some cases the anonymity, of digital devices.

As a fierce advocate for children and their well-being, CHOC Children’s recommends the following guidelines to help your child fight bullying and educate them about this critical issue.

Heather Huszti, a psychology director at CHOC, says one of the best ways to protect your children from bullying is to talk openly about it. “Have a discussion about why some kids might be bullies,” she says. “You can explain that most bullies have low self-esteem and that they bully other people to try to feel better about themselves.”

Dr. Huszti suggests asking your child open-ended questions such as, “Is there anything going on?” or “Is there anything I can help you with?” This approach usually works better than firing off a list of specific questions.

If you learn your child is being bullied, here are some additional steps you can take:
* Inform your child’s school about the bullying.

* Talk with the bully’s parents about the behavior.

* Help your child build up his or her self-esteem. The better your child feels about herself, the less effect a bully will have on her overall well-being.

* Be mindful of your child’s online activity.

* Have a plan. Talk about what your child might do if he or she is bullied, including who to tell.

*Pay close attention to signs from your child that may show something is wrong, such as acting withdrawn, sad or irritable, or changes in their sleep or appetite. Keep in mind however, that sometimes kids will not display any signs at all so it’s important to keep an open dialogue with your child.

For more information about bullying, or if you have concerns about your child’s emotional well-being, please contact CHOC Children’s Pediatric Psychology at 714-532-8481.