SPS: Syracuse Hospital To Build Long-Awaited Psych Unit For Teens

Syracuse Hospital To Build Long-Awaited Psych Unit For Teens
By James T. Mulder Syracuse Post-Standard January 10, 2018

The state has approved a plan by Upstate University Hospital to open an 8-bed inpatient psychiatric unit for teenagers, a project Upstate has been considering for 13 years.

The $3.2 million unit on the seventh floor of Upstate's main hospital downtown will open in 2019. It will provide treatment for 12- to 17-year-olds for five to seven days.

Every day an average of eight children and teens are at Upstate awaiting transfer to a facility that provides inpatient psychiatric care. Other area hospital emergency rooms also see youngsters waiting to get into inpatient facilities.

Children are often transferred out of the area to facilities as far away as Buffalo and Saratoga Springs.

"This unit will keep children and their families together in our community while they receive care, but this is only the beginning as there is much work to be done in bringing additional mental health services to children to our region," Dr. Thomas Schwartz, who chairs Upstate's psychiatry department, said in a prepared statement.

Hutchings Psychiatric Center, a state hospital, is the only inpatient facility in Syracuse with 30 beds for children.

Increasing the number of inpatient psychiatric beds for youngsters was one of the recommendations contained in a youth mental health task force report issued last year. The task force was created by Rep. John Katko, R-Camillus, and Assemblyman William Magnarelli, D-Syracuse.

Katko and Magnarelli praised Upstate for moving ahead with the project.

The shortage of psychiatric beds for children in Syracuse has been a problem since 2004 when Four Winds, a private psychiatric hospital that had 64 beds for youths, closed.

Parents of children with psychiatric problems have complained about the problem.

"It has been so hard for parents to get care for their children in Central New York," said Mary Jane O'Connor, a board member of Family Tapestry, a parents' group.

She said parents are "delighted" with Upstate's plans and will continue to advocate for more beds and services in the area.

The state Health Department and Office of Mental Health approved Upstate's plans for the unit last month.

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