CannonDesign pediatric leaders Diane Osan and Mitch Levitt are featured extensively in a new article from Modern Healthcare titled, “Thinking Small: Pediatric Facilities Built with Behavioral Health in Mind.” The article focuses on efforts at numerous pediatric health providers, including Nationwide Children’s Hospital, Dayton Children’s Hospital, and Kaiser Permanente to combat mental health challenges the article calls “a silent killer.”

“It’s hard to come to terms with, particularly among children and adolescents. About 75% of mental illness manifests before the age of 24,” the article continues. “Left unaddressed, [mental illness] can have a significant downstream effect on the healthcare system and society at large.” Consider the following stats from the news story:

  • About half of adolescents ages 13 to 18 live with a mental disorder, but more than half of those go untreated, according to the National Institute of Mental Health
  • About 1 in 5 adolescents experience a severe mental disorder compared with about 1 in 8 children ages 8 to 15, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, a patient advocacy association.
  • Suicide is the third-leading cause of death in youths ages 10 to 14 and the second for those ages 15 to 24
  • About 2 in 5 students with a mental health condition age 14 and older drop out of school. Nearly 3/4 of the youth in the juvenile justice system have a mental illness, according to the alliance. The numbers skew toward minorities and broken families.
  • Mental health and substance abuse treatment spending for all ages is expected to total $280.5 billion in 2020, an increase from $171.1 billion in 2009, according to HHS’ Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration

Recognizing the need for enhanced pediatric behavioral healthcare, the article dives into current efforts across the country. The full article is available online, here are excerpts from our team’s contributions.

On the complex challenges facing today’s youth
Many of America’s youth aren’t forming the strong relationships that can help them get through tough times. That coupled with the opioids crisis and a range of socio-economic issues have created an unprecedented rise in behavioral-health issues, said Diane Osan, pediatric health practice leader at architecture firm CannonDesign. “This is shaping conversations about program development and the physical response of healthcare spaces,” she said.

On health systems addressing behavioral health even with low reimbursement
But hospitals are starting to provide mental health services even if payers aren’t paying for them, said Mitch Levitt, business development leader for CannonDesign’s pediatric practice. “We’ve reached a tipping point where hospitals are saying this is a significant problem that will get worse if we don’t address it and figure out how to cover our costs,” he said.

On the importance of positive engagement
Dayton (Ohio) Children’s Hospital opened an eight-story patient tower last year that features indoor and outdoor play spaces, a rooftop garden, designated areas for family interaction, colorful wayfinding accents and larger patient rooms. It also plays off hometown innovators the Wright brothers. The “Dragonflyer” is an interactive dragonfly sculpture that kids can move and steer as if they were gliding over the green fields of Huffman Prairie, like the Wrights did more than 100 year ago.

When a 3-year-old with a recently molded cast on his right arm saw it, he threw his hands up in the air and said, “ ‘Oh, wow,’ ” CannonDesign’s Osan said.  “It’s as if all the pain that happened in the emergency room dissipated,” she said. “That’s the power of positive engagement.”

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