Pediatric behavioral health programs receive funding

Danville, PA, Two new initiatives to make it easier for local youth to access behavioral health services have received funding from a catalyst fund set up to improve pediatric behavioral health in the region.

The first, Bridge Clinic, will receive funding from the Susan W. McDowell Pediatric Behavioral Health Catalyst Fund to meet the need for follow-up care for pediatric behavioral health patients who come to the emergency department in crisis. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, there has been a national increase in suicidal thoughts and suicide attempts among school-age children.

Approximately $130,000 will be awarded to build Bridge Clinics to provide children in crisis rapid access to follow-up care. The money will be used to add additional staff, including a care manager and scheduler.

“The Bridge Clinic will reduce the length of stay for our pediatric behavioral health patients and provide quick, effective access to care and care coordination,” said Dr. Samuel Faulkner, the pediatrician who applied for the funding. “The clinic will reduce stress on our emergency medicine colleagues and provide interventions for children and families with professionals who help them navigate psychological distress. It will also ensure long-term access for patients with appropriate behavioral health specialists.”

The second program to receive funding will offer psychosocial care for pediatric patients dealing with inflammatory bowel disease, including Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. The prevalence of both diseases, which require infusion therapy to help manage them, has increased by more than 130% over the past 10 years.

The diseases can cause loss of appetite, fatigue, diarrhea, rectal bleeding, delayed growth and the possible need for surgery. According to the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation, youth dealing with these diseases are at higher risk of depression, anxiety, social difficulties and poor quality of life.

Catalyst funding will be used to provide a behavioral health specialist at the Pediatric Infusion Center to evaluate patients and provide coping and management skills for their gastrointestinal disorders, making access easier for young patients and families.

“Across the country, specialized pediatric medical providers, pediatric patients, and caregivers have been vocal about the need for better access to psychosocial services for pediatric patients and families managing the daily stressors that come with pediatric chronic medical illnesses such as can occur with inflammatory bowel disease,” said Dr. Joel Winick, Geisinger Licensed Psychologist. “The aim of this initiative is to provide psychosocial support to enhance coping skills for our pediatric patients and families who are receiving excellent medical care at Geisinger.”

Approximately $28,000 of the McDowell Catalyst Fund will be used to provide psychosocial care to IBD patients.

The Susan W. McDowell Pediatric Behavioral Health Catalyst Fund was created earlier this year with a $1 million commitment from Susan McDowell of Lewisburg. McDowell has long had a passion for pediatric behavioral health in the region, leading several behavioral health initiatives during the past two decades and partnering with Geisinger in behavioral health for more than 20 years.

The two programs are the first to receive funding from the McDowell Fund. The second round of funding is now open for applications from Geisinger providers. The McDowell Fund is part of the Geisinger Health Foundation’s Beyond the Bricks campaign, which aims to provide funding for programs across the Geisinger footprint that create additional care opportunities for youth.

To contribute to the McDowell Behavioral Health Catalyst Fund, visit the Beyond the Bricks page or contact Glen Bernius, director of pediatric fundraising for the Ginger Health Foundation.

aAbout Geisinger
Geisinger is committed to making better health easier for its more than 1 million people. Founded more than 100 years ago by Abigail Geisinger, the system now includes 10 hospital complexes, a health plan with more than half a million members, a research institute and the Geisinger Commonwealth School of Medicine. With approximately 24,000 employees and more than 1,700 employed physicians, Geisinger boosts their hometown economies in Pennsylvania by billions of dollars annually. Learn more on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn and Twitter,

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