CHOC is no stranger to responding in times of crisis. We are here when families need us most—when our patients are at their most vulnerable. In the midst of this pandemic, and the subsequent rise of mental health issues, CHOC persists in giving kids the best chance of growing into healthy and happy adults. Recently, we sat down with our heroic mental health team to learn more about how we are meeting the increasing need for mental health services in our community.
Q: What makes CHOC different from other mental health inpatient centers?
A: At CHOC, we are not interested in short-term solutions, but rather in providing our patients and families with lifelong benefits that pave the way for a brighter future. Although it requires more time, energy and patience, our staff is committed to build children up to understand their emotions and equip them with the confidence and tools needed to regain self-control of their thoughts and feelings. Our model of care and trauma-informed approach has helped us lower the rate of interventions requiring seclusion or restraint. While typical pediatric psychiatric units use higher interventions on 40 percent of their patients, we were able to further reduce our rate from one percent to six-tenths of a percent.
Q: What’s a recent accomplishment the Cherese Mari Laulhere Mental Health Inpatient Center (MHIC) is most proud of?
A: The Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations (JCAHO), is an accreditation company. They survey inpatient mental health units every three years. JCAHO was recently at CHOC and said we have “the best mental health unity they have ever seen.” And praised CHOC for being an exceptional facility in the way we provide care.
Q: How has the MHIC been involved in addressing the rise in mental health issues, especially since the COVID-19 pandemic began?
A: Since the pandemic, health professionals are even more concerned as COVID-19 forced many kids into isolation, which has only exacerbated mental health issues. We have seen evidence of this in our MHIC, which has remained at record census levels. This is due to an influx of patients from local pediatric inpatient psychiatric units that closed to focus on treating adults with COVID-19, as well as the increase of higher acuity patients needing inpatient care.We were the only institution in Orange County accepting COVID-19 positive patients into our mental health inpatient unit. At one point we had 13 COVID-positive or COVID-exposed patients in isolation on our unit at one time.
Q: How does philanthropy impact the MHIC?
A: We exist because of philanthropy and are able to operate at this level based on our community’s support. Thanks to the generosity of our donors, we are able to provide:
- Access to a variety of engaging activities
- A sensory room with outdoor shade
- Resource Rich to practice coping skills after discharge
- A safe and welcoming environment, as well as an outstanding level of care
Our donors also help lift the morale of the staff. We were recently able to purchase branded jackets and lanyards for our staff members and food is constantly being brought in from supporters to help feed our staff and patients.
Q: Why should the community support mental health?
A: What we’ve seen this past year, due to COVID-19, is that mental health has come to the forefront of all our minds. There has been greater awareness around mental health and a shift in the way people with mental health issues are looked at and treated has occurred. The stigma is decreased because everyone is suffering no matter the socioeconomic status. There will still be a huge need to support mental health even after the pandemic is over.
Although the pandemic has changed life as we know it, one thing remains the same: children—and their parents—are still counting on us to help them get better. Our commitment to bring healing and hope to children is made possible by the philanthropic support of our community.