HARTFORD, Conn. (WTNH) – The mental health crisis in Connecticut spurred by the pandemic is hitting children particularly hard. So, Connecticut Children’s has now filed paperwork to open a new unit.

Right now, if a child has medical needs and psychiatric troubles, many times they end up in the emergency department, which fills up beds and slows everything down, and that’s not necessarily the care they need.

“Any given day we have 20 to 25 children in the emergency room, about half waiting for inpatient beds and sometimes they wait two or three weeks for a bed to open up anywhere in the state. Since COVID that number has risen to 35 to 45 so it has gone up significantly,” said James Shmerling DHA, CEO of Connecticut Children’s.

The above video is from a previous newscast.

A new 12-room unit will treat children between the ages of 5 to 17, children with medical and psychiatric needs. There will be medical doctors on staff as well as psychiatrists and treatment options from group therapy to counseling to help them get home from the hospital sooner and healthier.

“A child that perhaps has diabetes and is really struggling with depression and anxiety, and as a result can’t manage their diabetes treatments anymore, that is really hard to find an inpatient program that can help support them,” said Dr. Melissa Santos, Connecticut Children’s. “One of the great things that we are doing here at Connecticut Children’s is really developing a continuum of care so that we can give kids the right care at the right time at the right intensity level.”

The need is great and Shmerling said 12 beds is a good start, especially when the shortage is statewide. So they will continue working in the community to keep children in their homes and out of the hospital.

“Inpatient care is sort of the tip of the iceberg, what we want to do is provide intervention much earlier and that is something that we’re doing in a whole continuum, so getting into homes and schools out in the community, hopefully identifying children who may be at risk and providing an intervention before they need the hospital,” Shmerling said.

While they file the paperwork and are awaiting the state’s response, they are moving forward with the planning process. They believe once the shovel hits the ground, they could have the beds open, staffed and ready for children by the fall of 2023.