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Tong Yu is one of the on-site teachers at the College Hill Campus. She is specially trained to teach patients with behavioral and mental health issues.
Adolescence – under the best of circumstances, it is a challenging time. Teetering between the comfort and security of childhood and the excitement of a more independent, more adult life is a difficult balancing act. It’s a period of self-discovery that is riddled with enormous pressure, life-altering decisions, major milestones and, often, self-doubt.
Imagine trying to get through the ups and downs of those years while also battling clinical depression, bipolar disorder, anxiety, aggression or another serious mental illness.
For many teenagers, this is their reality.
Cincinnati Children’s is committed to bringing hope and healing for those suffering with mental health issues, whether they are entering pre-school or graduating from high school.
We offer a full continuum of services at multiple locations throughout the region, including our College Hill campus, which offers a wide range of care for patients with mental health problems. Our staff is uniquely skilled to care for patients with complex mental health issues or for those who are also managing a physical condition, such as diabetes.
From outpatient services to our 33-bed residential program for long-term care, Cincinnati Children’s is helping to meet the needs of this at-risk and underserved population.
The Spaulding Foundation has been a transformational partner in this work. “Mental healthcare is not a glamorous area to fund, which is why it’s typically underfunded,” says John Prather, the foundation’s president. “Our hope, and why we tend to focus on children and adolescents with mental health issues, is to interrupt their behavioral patterns before they are hard wired. We hope to change a life, and Cincinnati Children’s has a history of success.”
Residential patients can spend anywhere from a few months to years at the College Hill campus, so an all-inclusive care approach is vital to their healing. By providing educational support, patients can stay on track, or get back on track, with their schooling. This aspect of our holistic care contributes to our patients’ success when they go home.
The College Hill campus offers a complete educational program thanks to a partnership with the Cincinnati Public Schools (CPS). The Spaulding Foundation provided the funding needed to purchase instructional materials, books and computers to outfit the school at College Hill, which is staffed by certified CPS teachers. “We believe education is an important part of a teen’s treatment and success,” John says.
Those successes can be life-changing. Three years ago, a ninth-grader arrived for residential treatment. After her educational assessment, it was determined that her reading and math skills were at a fifth-grade level. After 13 months at College Hill, not only was she well enough to be discharged, the patient was also completing math and reading assignments at her grade level, thanks to her on-site teacher, Tong Yu.
“She called me this past June to say she had finished high school and was going on to college,” says Tong, one of three CPS teachers assigned full time to College Hill. “I am so proud of her. I am so grateful Cincinnati Children’s allows me to make a difference for these children.”
As patients arrive for extended treatment, they enroll in a class taught by Tong or one of her colleagues who are dual certified in general and special education. After the students complete an initial assessment, their teacher at College Hill works closely with their school to gather records and map out educational goals during their treatment.
“Even though students are here for medical care, we don’t want them to fall behind academically,” Tong says. “They can become frustrated if they are not keeping up with their classmates. Being up-to-speed can help with their treatment as well as their transition back to school.”
Because the students at College Hill have additional needs, providing them with specially trained educators is critical to their success. Tong’s experience as an educator, coupled with her training in teaching students with behavioral and mental health issues, establishes her as a valuable member of the care team.
“Cincinnati Children’s understands that I play an important role in the students’ care,” Tong says. “Each week, I participate in treatment discussions about each of my students with everyone involved in their care, including therapists, nurses and the chaplain.”
This integrated approach helps the students make important strides in their recovery and in academics. Their academic achievements build self-esteem, which is a major asset in their overall treatment. It arms them with the tools they need to sustain their success when they go home.
“As my students see their successes in the classroom, I witness their confidence building,” Tong says. “Each milestone brings them closer to their goals.”
In her College Hill classroom, Tong is able to provide more personal attention than students might receive in a traditional school setting. This kind of instruction helps them to catch up, keep up and, in some instances, even surpass their classmates back home.
Recently, a pre-teen came to College Hill unable to read.
“After working with me for six months, she came into class exclaiming, ‘Mrs. Yu, Mrs. Yu! I read my compliment cards from my care team on Friday,’” Tong recalls. “Seeing this kind of impact is why I teach here.”
If you have had an experience with Cincinnati Children's, we invite you to share your story.
At a time when many providers were cutting their services or closing their doors, Cincinnati Children’s opened the College Hill Campus to address the underserved mental health needs of children and adolescents.
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