Anna Jaques Hospital expands community-based inpatient mental health services for children and adolescents

Anna Jaques Hospital adds four inpatient beds in its Child and Adolescent Psychiatric Unit

Newburyport, Mass. – In response to a growing need for mental health services for children and adolescents – an issue further intensified by social and physical isolation during the pandemic – Anna Jaques Hospital (AJH) has expanded its commitment to inpatient mental health and support services for young people. With approval and funding from the State of Massachusetts, AJH has added four additional inpatient beds to the Child and Adolescent Psychiatric Unit located at the Amesbury Health Center. The addition of these beds brings the total number of beds from 12 to 16.

The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated mental health distress among children and adolescents. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that children ages five to 11 made emergency department visits related to mental health – about 24 percent more often over the last year during the pandemic than in 2019. Visits from children ages 12-17 increased by 31 percent during this same period. Children experiencing a mental health crisis face longer wait times for beds due to a shortage of inpatient psychiatric beds across the Commonwealth.

“The COVID-19 pandemic’s impact on our children’s mental health is sobering,” said Alexander Lipin, MD, a pediatric and adolescent psychiatrist at Anna Jaques Hospital, who leads the program. “As we continue a return to school amidst this pandemic, it is critical that families are both aware of the current mental health burden on children and know where to turn to when they need outside support. This additional bed capacity will allow us to provide lifesaving support when it is needed the most.”

The AJH Child and Adolescent Psychiatry program provides structured and secure inpatient psychiatric services to children and adolescents ages four to 17. Patients are admitted to the program when their mental or emotional disorders prevent them from managing safely at home, at school or in the community. The program offers short-term inpatient treatment and stabilization. Patients typically are admitted after evaluation in a hospital emergency department, outpatient treatment center or residential treatment center.

“Expansion of Anna Jaques Hospital’s Child and Adolescent Psychiatric Unit is welcome news to this community,” said Richard Maki, senior vice president and chief nursing officer at AJH. “Every available inpatient bed makes a real difference for a child and their family when they are facing a mental health crisis, and all of us at Anna Jaques are proud to be able to provide expanded compassionate care for our community around mental health issues.”

In addition to funding from the State, the Institution for Savings Charitable Foundation has made a multi-year commitment to the program. Funding from the Institution for Savings will support the incremental addition of clinical staff and the operations of the expanded bed capacity.

“Anna Jaques Hospital is grateful for the opportunity to provide additional support and resources to those struggling with mental health in our local community,” said Mark Goldstein, president of Anna Jaques Hospital. “The stress of the COVID-19 pandemic has taken an extreme toll on our children’s emotional well-being, and we so appreciate our partners at MassHealth, the Department of Public Health and the Department of Mental Health, the Institution for Savings Charitable Foundation, and several private donors for their generous support of this program.”

The COVID-19 pandemic has caused changes and disruptions to everyone’s daily life which might be especially hard for children. Lipin offers the following suggestions based on guidance from the National Association of School Psychologists to support children’s mental health and wellbeing during these difficult times:

  1. Validate and acknowledge your child’s concerns: Offer reassurance and teach positive preventive measures that gives your child some control over the outcome; for example, wearing a mask or hand washing to help minimize the risk of getting sick.
  2. Establish and maintain a daily routine: Keeping a regular schedule helps provide a sense of structure and control.
  3. Stay connected to your child’s school: It is important to understand if there are issues happening at school that you might not be aware are impacting your child’s mental health; could be related to friends or keeping up with their schoolwork.
  4. Have regular conversations with your child about how they feeling: Be aware of changes in your child’s behavior and for any behavior changes that seem concerning; reach out to a mental health provider for support.

About Anna Jaques Hospital

Anna Jaques Hospital is a 119-bed not-for-profit community hospital serving the Merrimack Valley, North Shore and Southern New Hampshire. With 1,200 employees and more than 200 physicians on staff, Anna Jaques is recognized for delivering high quality community health care with an emphasis on patient satisfaction.

Anna Jaques Hospital is a part of Beth Israel Lahey Health, a health care system that brings together academic medical centers and teaching hospitals, community and specialty hospitals, more than 4,800 physicians and 36,000 employees in a shared mission to expand access to great care and advance the science and practice of medicine through groundbreaking research and education. For more information about Beth Israel Lahey Health, please visit www.bilh.org.

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