The Rancho Santa Fe Tennis Club recently made a $310,000 contribution toward Rady Children’s Hospital’s planned Copley Psychiatric Emergency Department, which aims to be the region’s first pediatric psychiatric emergency department and one of very few in the nation to serve the unique needs of young patients with mental and behavioral health challenges.
In just four days, 50 members of the Rancho Santa Fe Tennis Club pledged more than $67,000. With matching funds from the Copley Foundation and Earnest Rady, plus an anonymous donor pledging $100,000, the club was able to present a $310,000 check to Rady Children’s Foundation on Nov. 14.
Dave Van Den Berg, member of the RSF Tennis Club board, said this is the first part of a five-year commitment to the Copley Psychiatric Emergency Department initiative — the club has also named Rady the beneficiary of April’s RSF Pro Am Invitational, the club’s signature charity event.
Through the invitational, the club hopes to reach its goal of contributing $500,000 in support of the psychiatric emergency department.
“It’s the kind of thing that we should be doing here, we’re so fortunate, we should be more than just a tennis club,” Van Den Berg said. “I’m really proud of the people we have in our club.”
The psychiatric emergency department is a service in high demand, as according to Rady Children’s Hospital, one in five children in the U.S. experiences a behavioral health disorder — about 190,000 children in San Diego alone. Nationally, 12 teens die each day as a result of self-harm and suicide is the third leading cause of death among people age 10-24 in the U.S.
“The numbers are stunning and it’s really the reason why we chose them,” Van Den Berg said, noting the suicide statistics are particularly alarming. “We wanted to choose a charity that the community can get behind and it looks like the community can.”
Charles Wilson, the senior director of Rady Children’s Hospital, said the hospital currently offers a number of behavioral health services for children, including psychiatric treatment for specific traumas such as abuse or family violence with the Chadwick Center for Children and Families. About seven years ago, Rady Children’s also took over the Adolescent Psychiatry Services (CAPS) program, an inpatient unit for children and teens with psychiatric illnesses. They added new programs for behavioral health and treatment of eating disorders.
Recently, Wilson said the hospital has experienced an explosion of demand in the emergency department for behavioral health issues.
“About 10 to 16 children are brought to the emergency department every day in psychiatric crisis,” Wilson said. “Whether they are suicidal or seriously aggressive, law enforcement or family brings them in and it’s not all that unusual to have 10 to 13 psychiatric patients in the emergency department’s 32 treatment rooms.”
Wilson said after they are accessed many patients require ongoing support or hospitalization before it is safe to send them home, and because there is a shortage of psychiatric beds in the only three psychiatric hospitals in San Diego, the patients can be in the emergency department for hours or sometimes days.
Across the country there is a tremendous issue with emergency department boarding, Wilson said, meaning long waits for mental health resources for both adult and child patients.
“When that happens here, a child who is contemplating suicide and the parents have brought them to the hospital in a panic after finding a note — they could be in the emergency department for often over 24 hours,” Wilson said. “Emergency departments are busy places, there’s a lot going on and a lot of stimulation. It’s not a place for a highly distressed or emotionally disturbed youth in crisis, they are much better off in a facility designed for their unique needs.”
Projected to open in 2019, the specialized emergency department is expected to be housed in the same building as the Sam S. and Rose Stein Emergency Care Center. Patients would be moved promptly to the psychiatric emergency department with a team of mental health professionals trained to handle the situation and work with the family to develop a plan for the patient to safely go home or move into a psychiatric hospital bed.
“There’s an acute need to provide everything kids need outside of the busy and dramatic environment of the emergency department,” Wilson said. “They need a protected environment that is calm, safe, nurtured and supported, and a place that can reduce agitation, not make it worse.”
Having a specially designated place for those cases also frees up emergency department rooms for children who are waiting to have other issues treated.
“We could not do this without the support of the community,” Wilson said. “Part of what is significant here is that we were able attract philanthropic support for mental health. The fact that the tennis club chose this particular cause is cause for celebration because mental health is not a typical topic of healthcare philanthropy, there’s still a little bit of a stigma.
Rady Children’s Hospital has increasingly recognized the importance of mental health, a common refrain has become “there’s no health without mental health,” Wilson said. Rady has committed to address these behavioral health or mental health needs before children and teenagers are launched into adult society with serious challenges.
“If we can intervene early we can change that life trajectory,” Wilson said. “I’m proud of the movement in San Diego, realizing that the time has come to make this a priority.”
Van Den Berg said they are looking to increase their impact for the new department, by way of corporate sponsorships for their 31st annual RSF Pro Am Invitational, April 27-29, 2018.
“The Pro Am keeps getting bigger every year,” said Van Den Berg, noting the event is now three days long and will feature more pros, capped with a gala dinner and silent auction. “I think now with a partner like Rady Children’s Hospital, it’s something that a lot more people will be interested in participating in.”