The largest gift in the medical center’s history will help us transform mental healthcare for kids and teens

No parent wants to face the reality that their child is suffering with mental illness—but the difficult truth is that an estimated 17.1 million children in the United States are. Even more alarming is that suicide is the second leading cause of death in people aged 15–24. In Ohio alone, a young person takes their life every 33 hours. 

For Michelle*, these are more than just statistics—it’s her family’s reality. Her daughter Erica* suffers from severe depression and anxiety, and at just 14 years old, she attempted to end her life. Michelle turned to our mental health specialists to keep her daughter alive.

Caring for Families with Nowhere Else to Turn

An increasing number of kids like Erica are struggling with depression, anxiety, mood disorders and more. Each year, we perform nearly 8,000 mental health crisis assessments through our Emergency Departments and Bridge Clinic, a separate evaluation and care coordination space providing immediate care in a calm, quiet environment.

At a time when providers across the nation are cutting funding or closing mental health programs altogether, we’re continuing to invest in this life-changing—and life-saving—work, because it’s the right thing to do. 

We provide a full continuum of services for kids of all ages—from prevention efforts to outpatient treatment, to long-term residential care.

And thanks to our partnership with the Convalescent Hospital for Children, we continue to expand programs and improve our facilities—giving kids like Erica a beacon of hope.

A Cry for Help

It all started with a move when Erica was 12. She had to jump into a new school, and after a while, Michelle noticed her daughter wasn’t acting like herself. 

Typically an active student, Erica struggled to get out of bed in the morning. She felt nervous in social situations and had trouble interacting with friends. Her depression and anxiety began to affect her school work. Her parents were worried, so they began working with a counselor—that’s when they realized how serious the situation was. 

“We found out Erica was having suicidal thoughts, and we were absolutely terrified,” Michelle says, her voice catching. “It got to the point where I didn’t know how to help her.”  

Erica’s counselor recommended she be taken to our emergency department to be evaluated. That same day she was admitted to our College Hill Campus—the only dedicated pediatric mental health facility in our region—for inpatient treatment. It was the beginning of a long journey.

A Groundbreaking Partnership

All that Cincinnati Children’s has been able to achieve for children has been in partnership with those who share our vision of a world of happy, healthy kids reaching their full potential. The Convalescent Hospital for Children’s commitment to our work has transformed the way we’re able to care for kids struggling with mental and behavioral health issues.

This longstanding partner has provided ongoing support for the medical center since 1977, helping children who need long-term chronic care for congenital disorders, traumatic brain injury and developmental and mental health challenges. In 2002, they gave a $9 million gift to help us establish our College Hill Campus, and in 2014 they gave $11 million for the tower expansion on that campus.

And once again, they’re answering the call of the families who need this specialized care.

The organization made a $36 million commitment—the largest gift in Cincinnati Children’s history—to expand our mental health programs and support the construction of a new facility at College Hill.

The new building will include an evaluation area for children with acute needs, transitional care spaces, more private rooms, outpatient clinics and specialty programs designed for patients with developmental and neurological conditions.

The transformational gift will not only enable us to expand College Hill and outpatient care delivered through our neighborhood locations, but it will also help us provide preventative care in schools and with community agencies.

“Since its inception in 1832, the mission and focus of the Convalescent Hospital for Children has been that all families with children struggling with long-term illnesses and the challenges of mental health have access to the very best medical care available,” says Susan Shelton, chair of the organization.

“Children dealing with mental illness have become a particular passion because too often they have no place to turn for the understanding, help and support they desperately need.”

A Long and Winding Road to Healing

Michelle and Erica know too well what that desperation feels like.

During her inpatient stay at College Hill, Erica was diagnosed with several conditions, including major depressive disorder, social anxiety disorder and personality disorder. There’s no one quick fix for mental illness, and healing is a long and arduous road. Like many of the kids we see, she needs ongoing care.

Erica’s had multiple inpatient stays, but last summer she was able to transition to our partial hospitalization program, where patients spend their days in our care, but spend nights and weekends with their families. This program helps kids who don’t need the structure of inpatient care manage their lives at home, in school and with friends.

“Partial hospitalization was a wonderful transition for Erica,” Michelle explains. “The care providers gave her a lot of coping skills and helped her identify her triggers so that she’d know what to look out for.”

But the roller coaster ride continued.

Despite Erica’s hard work in therapy, a traumatic event caused her to suffer a setback. On Halloween night of her freshman year, she made a plan to take her own life. Luckily her mom was able to intervene, and Erica was admitted back to College Hill. Michelle credits our “dream team” of caregivers for helping her daughter through her darkest time.

“Every day, her doctor and social worker called to give me updates,” Michelle says, eyes welling up. “They were taking care of me as much as they were my daughter. That’s what makes this place so special. We’re so lucky to have these angels here for our kids.”

The Convalescent Hospital for Children is asking our community to join them in supporting this important work. Please consider making a donation to help us match their groundbreaking investment in addressing the mental health crisis. For more information or to make a gift, please contact Ashley Rich at 513-803-6593 or ashley.rich@cchmc.org.

*These names have been changed to protect privacy.