Behavioral Health & Wellness Center Planned on Children’s Campus

Aerial photo of a construction site on the Children's Hospital & Medical Center campus

Center to be located at Children’s Hospital & Medical Center, creating campus with continuum of mental, physical care for children, teens

OMAHA, Neb. – In the summer of 2021, the Mental Health Innovation Foundation (MHIF), led by community leader and philanthropist Ken Stinson, convened a community stakeholder steering committee, including Children’s Hospital & Medical Center, CHI Health Immanuel, Boys Town, and Creighton University, among other community organizations, to collaboratively address growing mental health challenges for children and teens.

The need for more mental health services for area youth is clear and sobering. Even before the onset of COVID-19, 1 in 5 children was experiencing a mental illness, and the pandemic has led to increased mental health challenges and suicide risk among children. Nationwide, mental health-related emergency room visits are up 24% among children ages 5 to 11 and 31% among those 12 to 17 years old. Suicide is now the second-leading cause of death for youths, and Nebraska exceeds national trends for number of suicide deaths in adolescents ages 15 to 19.

MHIF seeks to collaboratively address growing mental health challenges in children and teens and has committed to expanding the capacity for inpatient pediatric mental health care in the Omaha area by creating a world class center of excellence. Since planning initially began, the project has evolved in several ways.

The planning team became aware of available space on Children’s campus, offering an opportunity to have mental health services on the same campus with a pediatric hospital and medical center. The center will be located on Children’s main campus on 84th Street and West Dodge Road on the former site of the Nebraska Methodist College building and will be 103,500 square feet with an $89 million project budget. The center will be named the Behavioral Health & Wellness Center at Children’s.

Children’s — with its broad pediatric health care expertise — will provide a seamless continuum of care for children, teens, and families. The location offers transportation access in a central part of Omaha. In addition, Children’s previous plan to develop and launch an Omaha pediatric mental health urgent care center will be integrated into the new facility.

MHIF is in the process of raising the funds needed to create the center. Of the $89 million, $16 million is expected from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) and Children’s is contributing $15 million. The remainder will come from donors who recognize the need for expanding children and adolescent mental health services. Groundbreaking for the center is being planned for late spring or early summer 2023.

“We are excited to lead the planning and funding for a state-of-the-art Behavioral Health & Wellness Center to serve the critical needs of Omaha’s children and teens,” Stinson said. “The response to this project tells me that our community understands the crisis and the need to expand mental health services.”

When the center opens in spring of 2025, the new facility will integrate mental health services into a pediatric medical center which is distinctive nationally.

The center will be operated by Children’s and offer a broad array of services, including:

• Welcoming, calm, and integrated point of access for youth and families in crisis
• First of its kind in the region behavioral health emergency assessment center
• 38 inpatient hospital beds, more than doubling the number in the Omaha region
• Significantly expanded partial hospitalization program capacity
• Integrated outpatient mental health services co-located with pediatric primary care, including incorporating Children’s previously planned Omaha urgent care center

“There is a mental health crisis increasingly affecting children and teens, and Children’s has been actively working—at the local and national level—to be part of the solution,” said Chanda Chacón, President and Chief Executive Officer of Children’s. “We are deeply committed to improving access to pediatric mental health care and collaborating with partners to make a meaningful impact.”

The project—from vision to planning and implementation—underscores the power of collaborative partnership. MHIF, Children’s, CHI Health Immanuel, and Creighton University mental health care professionals continue to work together in the planning and design process and in program development. MHIF has hired Kiewit Building Group Inc. as the contractor and HDR to design the facility.

“This is an important community collaboration focused on the mental health needs of children and families in our region,” said E.J. Kuiper, CHI Health President and CEO. “We are excited to partner with Children’s Hospital & Medical Center and the Mental Health Innovation Foundation to bring this gift to the community. This joint effort marries our strengths and creates a new opportunity to take children’s mental health care to a new level in the Midwest.”

MHIF will share more detailed information as plans continue to develop.

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