Children’s Hospital of Richmond at VCU on Friday celebrated the ribbon-cutting for the new Virginia Treatment Center for Children. The new VTCC is the result of $56 million in funding from the Virginia General Assembly and a dedicated community of donors and mental health advocates.
One in five children will experience a serious mental health issue, but 75 percent of them will not receive the care they need, according to the National Institute of Mental Health. VTCC is an acknowledgement that national issues surrounding children’s mental health need to be addressed and VCU’s Department of Psychiatry is leading the charge.
The facility is transformational for children’s mental health care, bringing VTCC’s services out of a 50-year-old institutional space and into a modern facility with an inspirational design that incorporates natural light, green space and unique safety features important to modern mental health care. Based on research and the unique profile of the pediatric psychiatric patient, the facility design features a soothing aesthetic, warm and bright color palette, and comforting, home-like furnishings.
“It eases the stigma surrounding mental illness and improves access to care,” said Marsha Rappley, M.D., CEO of VCU Health and vice president of health sciences at VCU. “We’re also doubling space to train future generations of children’s mental health providers and conduct innovative research initiatives that will enhance treatment and prevention efforts. Our work here in the commonwealth will have a ripple effect across the country.”
VTCC serves children from across Virginia, with nearly 50 percent coming from outside Richmond and surrounding counties. With new telemedicine programs, VTCC physicians will extend their reach across Virginia, particularly in rural areas.
A parent’s perspective
VTCC gave Kiva Gatewood’s son, Kyle, a critical chance to succeed. The 3-year-old was referred to Bela Sood, M.D., a child and adolescent psychiatrist at VTCC, after exhibiting extreme behavior and failing to meet developmental milestones.
“The prejudice or stigma against those with mental health problems is declining and our scientific understanding of mental illness and treatment is greatly improving,” said Joel Silverman, M.D., chairman of the VCU Department of Psychiatry. “As a result, more kids and families like the Gatewoods are seeking help and the outcomes are excellent — kids are returning to healthy, productive lives.”
“For the very first time, Kyle was able to sit still, no longer attacking himself or others,” Gatewood said. “Dr. Sood has been Kyle’s psychiatrist now for 15 years. It was her medical knowledge, research and compassion that made the difference and enabled us to care for him at home.”
Inspired by the care her family received, Gatewood joined VTCC’s Advisory Council to help enact change for future generations of VTCC patients and families. She adds, “VTCC is a unique, caring and judgment-free place where each person is an individual. At VTCC no two cases are treated the same, because no two brains are the same.”
“We received wonderful care in the old facility, but the stigma of mental health was exemplified in its design — much like most mental health facilities across the country,” Gatewood said. “The fear of mental health, the gloom and doom, it wanes as you enter the vibrant and light-filled spaces of the new facility. It’s one-of-a-kind, and it’s hope for the future. Our community is lucky.”
Serving the commonwealth
VTCC provides inpatient and outpatient services for children and adolescents across Virginia. VTCC’s clinical expertise ranges from anxiety and mood disorders to depression and mental health needs related to gender and sexuality. In 2016, VTCC cared for nearly 1,000 children requiring inpatient care and saw more than 7,000 outpatient visits. The new facility will enable VTCC to develop new programs and services to better meet the needs of Virginia’s children and increase outpatient visits by 300 percent over the next two to three years.
The new VTCC spans 4.5 acres on CHoR’s Brook Road Campus and includes 32 private inpatient rooms with accommodations for a parent to spend the night; 20 outpatient consult rooms; occupational, recreation, art, music and play therapy; inpatient school programs; a gym and recreational areas; gardens and greenspace; a Children’s Mental Health Resource Center; and the Commonwealth Institute for Child and Family Studies, the research arm of VTCC. The two-story, 190,000-square-foot facility opens to children and families in early 2018.
“Children’s Hospital of Richmond at VCU’s Brook Road Campus represents an unwavering legacy of helping children and families thrive,” said Deborah Davis, CEO of VCU Hospitals and Clinics, VCU Health System and vice president for clinical services at VCU. “This new facility and the team that will work within its walls reflect our commitment to ensuring access to care for all children. We look forward to opening our doors to children and families, and to a new day for children’s mental health care in our community.”
The building is the first LEED-accredited children’s behavioral health facility in Virginia and has already been recognized for its safe and healing environment with an Award of Merit in Behavioral Healthcare’s 2016 Design Showcase competition. Cannon Design was the architect of the nature-themed facility, with project management by JLL and construction by Balfour Beatty.
“When VCU assumed stewardship of VTCC in 1991, we recognized the importance of providing children in the community and commonwealth with high-quality mental health care,” said VCU President Michael Rao, Ph.D. “I am proud of the work done by the health care experts at VTCC to ensure that every child has a chance to succeed.”