Emergency Rooms Struggle to Help Area Teens and Children in Psychiatric Crisis and at Risk of Suicide

New Psychiatric Emergency Program at the Morgan Stanley Children's Hospital Leads to Better Quality Care, Faster Evaluation and Treatment in a Non-Threatening Facility

Jul 5, 2005


Each year thousands of teens and children in Manhattan require emergency medical services for psychiatric crises. Many have made a suicide attempt or are at immediate risk of suicide. These children and adolescents are evaluated and held in non-psychiatric pediatric emergency rooms, which lack the necessary psychiatric staffing and facilities, or in an adult psychiatric emergency setting – a scenario that is often frightening for children. In response to this problem, New York's first comprehensive program dedicated to responding to child and adolescent psychiatric emergencies, the Child and Adolescent Comprehensive Psychiatric Emergency Program (C-CPEP), has opened at the Morgan Stanley Children's Hospital of NewYork-Presbyterian.

Since opening in October 2004, the C-CPEP has resulted in reduced use of restraints and sedation, lower hospitalization rates, fewer referrals of children to psychiatric facilities far from their families, and a system of referral for follow-up services. The C-CPEP program delivers every teen and adolescent a comprehensive psychiatric evaluation and decisions for the next steps in care as rapidly as possible (generally within four hours). The program is staffed 24 hours a day, seven days a week with child and adolescent psychiatrists, nurses, social workers and psychologists. The facility is designed to provide a safe environment for psychiatric evaluation and attention to admitted children.

Dr. Jennifer Havens, director of pediatric psychiatry at the Morgan Stanley Children's Hospital of NewYork-Presbyterian and associate clinical professor of psychiatry at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons, has worked for the last five years with Hospital administrators, staff of the departments of psychiatry and pediatrics, and officials from the New York State Office of Mental Health, to create the specially designed unit. "Imagine being a twelve-year-old in extreme psychiatric distress, thrown into the unavoidable chaos and commotion of a very busy pediatrics emergency room," says Dr. Havens. "The C-CPEP is a safe place with experts that can quickly move to calm, evaluate, and treat these children."

The majority of youth admitted to the C-CPEP are brought to the emergency room by a parent or are referred by schools. One third are under 12 years of age; the rest between 12 and 18. More than 90 percent of children and teens visiting the C-CPEP can be treated and released as out-patients, and referred to community care programs that allow them to remain at home and with their families.

"Our C-CPEP significantly raises the bar for the care of children and adolescents in psychiatric crisis," says Dr. Havens. "With appropriate facilities and clinical expertise, we can attend to youth quickly, and work in partnership with their families to avoid unnecessary inpatient psychiatric admissions."

The Morgan Stanley Children's Hospital C-PEP is funded in part by a grant from the Rodd D. Brickell Foundation, whose founders, Ellie Wohl, Richard Brickell, and Norman Brickell are pleased to support important work in pediatric psychiatry and memorialize Ronne and Joseph S. Wohl.

Morgan Stanley Children's Hospital of NewYork-Presbyterian

Ranked by U.S.News & World Report as one of the top five children's hospitals in the country, Morgan Stanley Children's Hospital of NewYork-Presbyterian offers the best available care in every area of pediatrics – including the most complex neonatal and critical care, and all areas of pediatric subspecialties – in a family-friendly and technologically advanced setting. Building a reputation for more than a century as one of the nation's premier children's hospitals, Morgan Stanley Children's Hospital of NewYork-Presbyterian is affiliated with Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons, and is New York City's only hospital dedicated solely to the care of children and the largest provider of children's health services in the tri-state area with a long-standing commitment to its community. Morgan Stanley Children's Hospital of NewYork-Presbyterian is also a major international referral center, meeting the special needs of children from infancy through adolescence worldwide.