In just one year, more than 700 children from Wichita and south-central Kansas made the drive to Hays or Kansas City to receive treatment at KVC Health’s psychiatric hospitals.
By early 2019, those children who struggle with suicidal thoughts, feelings of violence, depression, substance abuse and more will have a new place to go, closer to home.
“When any child is in crisis, we want them to get the care they need right away,” said Michelle Lawrence, vice president of development for KVC Health Systems. “We are so happy to have one of our hospitals located where so many children will be able to be so much closer to home and receive services.”
KVC Hospitals, which operates Prairie Ridge Hospital in Kansas City and Wheatland Hospital in Hays, will open a new child’s psychiatric hospital in Wichita by early 2019.
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The former Kansas Orthopedic Center, a 30,000-square-foot facility on 21st Street, east of Amidon, will be renovated and expanded to house a 54-bed psychiatric hospital for children between the ages of 6 and 18.
The hospital, 1507 W. 21st St., will have the capacity to treat 2,800 patients annually.
KVC Hospitals will hire between 150 and 200 employees for positions including director, associate director, therapists, behavioral health counselors, behavioral health technicians, psychiatrists and more.
Currently, the only place in Wichita with inpatient psychiatric services for children and adolescents is Via Christi Health, said Matthew Macaluso, associate professor and director of residency training program at KU School of Medicine’s Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences. There, they have a limited number of beds, he said.
“There is a major shortage of child and adolescent psychiatric services in Wichita, in Sedgwick County and in the majority of the state outside of the Kansas City area,” Macaluso said. “To put that in perspective, you have three board certified child and adolescent psychiatrists outside of the Kansas City area. That’s for the entire state of Kansas.”
The new KVC hospital will be the largest provider of psychiatric services for children and adults outside of the Kansas City area, he said.
KVC’s acute hospitalization programs offer:
- Intensive psychiatric care and medication management
- Individual, family and group therapy
- Pediatric assessment and treatment
- 24-hour support and supervision from behavioral health nursing staff
- Comprehensive medical care
- Expressive therapies including music, art and animal-assisted play
The children admitted to KVC’s hospitals are often struggling with suicide. More than 60 percent don’t want to live, KVC says.
“I have a hard time finding any one person who hasn’t been touched by or familiar with a story about a child taking their own life,” Lawrence said. “It is just critical that we do something quick.”
There are already providers in Wichita offering mental health care to children, but this will be the only freestanding children’s psychiatric hospital in the city.
When a child comes into care, the program doesn’t just keep them safe for a week before sending them home, Lawrence said. Rather, the program focuses on empowering children to become self aware, understand their trauma, learn how to manage triggers and regulate their emotions and bodies. They teach children how to remain safe and resilient, she said.
So far, there has been overwhelming support for the new hospital, Lawrence said.
“I think everyone recognizes the urgent nature of the work that we do and the need to be able to accommodate children who are suicidal or homicidal,” Lawrence said. “When you’re looking at a problem like this or issue like this, we need our community to be partners in this with us.”