Too Many Kids, Not Enough Beds

June 11th, 2019

One day last November, the children’s crisis stabilization unit (CCSU) at David Lawrence Center was already beyond full, with 11 clients receiving critical care for their urgent needs. But that was only the beginning.

By the end of the evening, that number had soared to 18, and there was simply no place to put them. Eighteen children, mostly teens, needed help, right then and there. But the unit had only eight beds.

Do the math, and you’ll see what a desperate situation it was. DLC staff worked frantically to transfer some of the kids to other hospitals and facilities. They finally got things sorted out, but some of the kids had to sleep on plastic cots.

The same thing happened again in February of this year, with similar numbers. More transfers, more sleeping on cots—in arguably the most desperate moments of their young lives. Children show up with all kinds of urgent needs, including suicidal ideation, anxiety, depression, and as victims of bullying and abuse.

The good news is that DLC is planning to add three more beds to the CCSU, bringing the total to 11. The bad news is that they still need many more—at least double that many. Tamara Glynn, DLC’s Acute Care Director, says that in a perfect world, they’d have 30 beds to accommodate both the current demand and planning ahead for future growth. But that will take some time . . . and funding. The faster DLC is able to raise support for this project, the more quickly it will have those 30 beds.

The number of kids needing crisis stabilization far outpaces population growth. State records show that mental health evaluations for children under the state’s Baker Act have more than doubled between 2011 and 2017 in Lee, Collier, and Charlotte counties. According to The Naples Daily News, Baker Act referrals for children while in school were rare in the early 2000s, but “it now happens hundreds of times a year, even at the elementary school level, according to records from sheriffs’ offices. Some schools average several such cases a month.”

(The Baker Act is a Florida law that allows people with mental health challenges to be held involuntarily for up to 72 hours in a mental health treatment facility if they meet certain criteria. The act can be initiated by judges, law enforcement officials, doctors, or mental health professionals.)

The addition of the three beds will cost about $350,000 total for new construction, materials, and supplies. These types of expansions aren’t cheap.

That’s why David Lawrence Center needs your support today, so the children in our community can have a safe place to land—and to be treated—when they are going through the most difficult times of their lives.

Please consider making an extra gift today. Click here to donate now. Thank you!

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