Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta to open pediatric mental health center through major donation

On Wednesday, Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta revealed that the hospital, through donations from David and Helen Zalik of the Zalik Foundation, is in the planning stages of opening a medical campus dedicated to pediatric behavioral and mental health.

Hospital leaders are calling it a historic move to provide behavioral and mental health treatment and care to children and adolescents in need, including services such as therapy sessions and short-term mental health support.

On this edition of “Closer Look,” Donna Hyland, CEO of Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, and Dr. John Constantino, chief of behavioral and mental health at Children’s, discussed the growing need for mental health resources among Georgia’s youth.

“There are so much unmet mental health needs of children, and there are excellent treatments that are available that a majority of children are not getting access to until it’s too late and their conditions have worsened, and they’re reaching crisis proportions,” said Constantino.

Recent data shows that in 2022, 15% of youth have experienced a major depressive episode, with children of color being affected disproportionately by troubling mental health and wellness conditions. 

Constantino says on average, in the United States, there is a seven-year delay from the onset of a child developing a mental health condition to the time a child receives any mental health treatment.

“I think at this point, the gap between what children need and what they are able to get access to has reached a crisis that is worthy of everyone’s attention,” Constantino said. “This whole platform represents the importance of not having fragmented care. Having care where all of the components of mental health treatments are staged in an integrated way.”

“One of the things that Children’s, for 100 years, has been dedicated to is understanding the needs of children and then working to see what can we do,” said Hyland. “The most important thing that kids and families need to hear is that there are people like us working on their behalf, and we want to help them.”