Kansas City,
12:00 PM

Children’s Mercy Kansas City Announces 5-Year Major Initiative to Address Pediatric Mental Health Crisis; $150 Million Investment in Kids

The nation’s youth are facing an unprecedented mental health crisis. More than 15 million children need mental health services, but only 30-50 percent receive care. In the Kansas City region, those numbers are higher, with 40-50 percent going untreated. To light the path forward, Children’s Mercy Kansas City has announced a comprehensive initiative to illuminate and address the mental health needs of children and teens in the community – four strategies, 14 projects and a new $150 million investment impacting more than 80,000 kids – the largest-of-its-kind in the region.  

Thanks to the generosity of a $50 million gift from the Sunderland Foundation and a combination of state and private funding, $70 million has been raised to-date.

“Mental health needs have continued to rise at an alarming rate, and parents and families are feeling the absence of a full continuum of care,” said Paul Kempinski, MS, FACHE, President and CEO, Children’s Mercy Kansas City. “We are incredibly grateful to the Sunderland Foundation for believing in our vision and kickstarting Children’s Mercy’s initiative to shine a light on areas of need, ensure the health and wellbeing of each child, and streamline coordination of their care. Over the next five years, we will provide enhanced access to evidence-based screening, diagnosis and treatment while expanding the collective network of services.”

“We are honored to be a part of this ambitious vision to address our youth mental health crisis,” said Kent Sunderland, Chairman, The Sunderland Foundation. “The statistics are staggering, and we, at the Sunderland Foundation, are committed to supporting Children’s Mercy capital projects as they light the path forward, increasing behavioral health services for kids in the region and beyond.”

Children’s Mercy recognizes that to provide the support children desperately need will require a collaborative effort among primary care physicians, outpatient providers, local schools, policy makers, community leaders and caregivers.

In all, Children’s Mercy will focus on the following four areas in a phased approach over the next five years:

Facilitate Early Intervention

Integrate mental health care and behavioral therapy services in school-based programs, and

primary and specialty care to prevent youth from reaching a mental health emergency.

  • Mental health integration: Provide pediatric expertise in primary and secondary care through 
    in-person and telemedicine appointments.
  • School-based programs: Develop evidence-based programs for school educators.
  • Care coordination: Build a new user-friendly, patient-centered care coordination system to streamline provider, community, and self-referrals.
  • Behavioral therapy services: Expand social work services to improve family access to interventions.

Increase Specialty Services

Increase access for all with a focus on improved health equity for the most vulnerable populations.

  • Depression & Anxiety: New Depression and Anxiety for Youth (DAY) Clinic for patients with anxiety and depression.
  • Eating Disorders: Increase the number of providers and expanded access to patients. Offer Intensive Outpatient Program that will provide an eating disorders program for youth when symptoms are too severe for a standard outpatient clinic.
  • ADHD: Serve more patients with Complex ADHD that require specialty care.
  • Streamlined Diagnosis: Provide patients with suspected ADHD with targeted evaluations to expedite diagnosis and connect to appropriate treatment more quickly.
  • Autism: Expand services to offer children diagnosed with Autism yearly visits to monitor development with the goal of reducing emergency services. A support team of behavioral experts will also provide caregivers with guidance when behaviors become unmanageable in the home.

Invest in Research and Innovation

Advance research to broaden knowledge and practice of evidence-based care, leading to data-driven treatments and innovations.

  • Research: The GOLDILOK’s PRISM study is designed to understand why fluoxetine (Prozac) works for some teens and not others. The PATHWAY study aims to reduce gaps in mental health services access and address health equity disparities.

Expand Inpatient Hospital Care

Provide urgent mental health care to children in need by expanding in-hospital services and increasing the number of beds available in the community.

  • Inpatient Mental Health Campus: Increase the total number of child and adolescent beds within 45 miles of the Kansas City metro area.
  • Acute Medical Health Crisis Center: Provide acute mental health screening, triage, assessment, care coordination and short-term stabilization for children with mental health emergencies.
  • Partial Hospital Program: Serve as a bridge for children being discharged from in-patient and transferred back into the community for high-acuity care.
  • Integrated Inpatient Care Unit: Provide a safe and effective care environment for patients with complex medical and psychiatric needs.

“The increase in behavioral health needs and the scarcity of treatment resources has become a national crisis,” said Sarah Soden, MD, Division Director of Developmental and Behavioral Health, Children’s Mercy Kansas City. “By taking action with the addition of staff, programs and services at all levels of acuity and creating systems to provide coordinated, seamless care, we can make a meaningful difference in the lives of our families and patients before it’s too late.”

Learn more about the initiative and how you can help light the path forward at childrensmercy.org/illuminate.