Texas Children’s Hospital and The Menninger Clinic have joined forces to address the mental health epidemic adolescents are facing in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, and crisis warnings sounded by the U.S. Surgeon General. The new affiliation will expand access to in-patient care for patients ages 12 to 17 experiencing a behavioral health crisis in Houston.
While pediatric emotional and behavioral health challenges were a growing concern before the pandemic, the impact of COVID-19 on the mental health of children and adolescents and the effects of growing social media use have become a public health crisis. Instances of children and adolescents presenting to Texas Children’s Hospital Emergency Centers with critical behavioral health needs rose nearly 800% from 2019 through 2022. Reported behaviors included aggressive episodes, severe anxiety and depression, suicidal thoughts and suicide attempts.
The Menninger Clinic, one of the nation’s top-ranked psychiatric hospitals, will collaborate with Texas Children’s Hospital, one of the nation’s top-ranked pediatric hospitals, the top-ranked pediatric hospital in the state of Texas and the largest pediatric hospital in the United States, to support additional pediatric patients needing the safety of inpatient hospital care as well as transitional out-patient treatment to support returning home and to school. Inpatient care at Menninger will be provided jointly by a care team of Texas Children’s Hospital providers, including Baylor College of Medicine psychiatry faculty, alongside The Menninger Clinic’s clinicians and nursing staff. The hospital program opens March 1. Beginning March 15, Menninger will be accepting Aetna members for inpatient stabilization and the transitional day and intensive outpatient programs, and is actively seeking to accept additional insurers in the near future.
“This affiliation between Texas Children’s Hospital and The Menninger Clinic will have a life-changing impact for young patients in our community in need of critical behavioral health services,” said Texas Children’s Hospital President and CEO Mark A. Wallace. “In addition to the challenges we have faced over the past several years, these two teams came together to find an appropriate plan of care for this growing demand for services. I am profoundly grateful for the commitment and agility of this partnership to help Texas Children’s Hospital do the right thing for our patients and our community.”
“Addressing the mental health crisis faced by our youth will take all of us coming together to look at how we can best connect those in need of behavioral health support with services in the moment they are needed most,” said Armando E. Colombo, president and CEO, The Menninger Clinic. “This affiliation with Texas Children’s Hospital, which combines key strengths from each institution, is the kind of collaboration we need right now to help more adolescents and families in crisis in the Greater Houston community.”
The collaboration initially will focus on safe stabilization of adolescents suffering with depression, anxiety and suicidality. For those adolescents and families needing additional treatment and support, Menninger offers an intensive outpatient program, an adolescent day treatment program as well as adolescent group and family therapy.
Both Texas Medical Center institutions are world-renowned for their quality of care. For over three decades, U.S. News & World Report has continuously ranked The Menninger Clinic as a top psychiatric hospital on its annual Best Hospitals list. Texas Children’s Hospital has been recognized as one of the best children’s hospitals in the nation and the top pediatric hospital in Texas for over 13 years.
Due to the drastic increase in the number of patients presenting with behavioral health concerns, Texas Children’s Hospital created an internal Behavioral Health Task Force comprised of clinical and operational leaders to determine what steps the hospital could take to meet the growing behavioral health needs of children who need care, both immediately and over the long term.
“The behavioral health needs of our children are at a critical point. We expect those needs to grow and evolve as the full effect of the pandemic is revealed, including longer-term mental health concerns, the impact of learning gaps that resulted from school closures, and grief and bereavement for families who lost loved ones,” said Dr. Kirti Saxena, Chief of Psychiatry at Texas Children’s Hospital and Associate Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences in the Menninger Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Baylor College of Medicine. “This partnership with The Menninger Clinic will allow us to have an even greater impact on access to acute mental health care for children in our community.”
The adolescent stabilization service at Menninger will have 12 inpatient beds. Menninger’s transitional step-down services include an intensive out-patient program for the adolescent and their family and a forthcoming re-opening of an adolescent day treatment program that will bridge the transition from the hospital, which is often a high-risk period following a mental health crisis.
“Many of our children and adolescents are in crisis. As clinicians, we recognize the critical role we all share in helping these young people find hope and healing,” said Cory Walker, DO, chief medical officer at The Menninger Clinic and assistant professor of psychiatry in the Menninger Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Baylor College of Medicine. “While mental health professionals have recognized for some time that adolescent mental health has needed a higher level of service than is broadly available, the pandemic has made this clear to the general public, as well as within other medical specialties. The youth mental health emergency has been the driving force between Texas Children’s Hospital and The Menninger Clinic collaborating to bring safe, effective mental health treatment to more adolescents and their families.”
Both Texas Children’s Hospital and The Menninger Clinic are affiliated with Baylor College of Medicine. Physicians from Baylor College of Medicine provide psychiatric care in The Menninger Clinic’s treatment programs, and members of the Menninger Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Baylor College of Medicine conduct research, which may provide The Menninger Clinic patients with early access to emerging interventions and other resources. Texas Children’s Hospital serves as the primary pediatric training site for Baylor College of Medicine students and is home to one of the nation’s largest pediatric residency programs.
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