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Children’s Hospital, KVC Missouri plan pediatric mental health campus in Webster Groves

An illustration of a brain with crayon squiggles all around it.
Sarah Fentem
St. Louis Public Radio
Officials at KVC Missouri and St. Louis Children's Hospital say the region only has half the inpatient beds it needs to treat pediatric psychiatric patients.

St. Louis Children’s Hospital and mental health treatment nonprofit KVC Missouri have announced plans to build a 70-bed hospital and inpatient center to care for children with mental health disorders.

The hospital will treat pediatric patients with acute mental health emergencies, officials said. A new residential treatment center will provide long-term care for patients.

The proposed facilities will be built over the next two years on KVC Missouri’s Webster Groves campus.

Officials at the two organizations said it will help in the care of a growing number of children who are seeking treatment at hospitals for anxiety, depression and other mental health issues.

“We know that there's such a significant need in the St. Louis area and across Missouri,” KVC Missouri President Lindsey Stephenson said. “And so we have spent a lot of time really being thoughtful and intentional about what we think the future vision should be.”

Health workers are seeing more children with mental health problems since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, she said. But treatment for issues, particularly residential or inpatient care for pediatric patients, can be difficult for families to find.

The campus will include the new hospital, residential treatment center and a repurposed building that will be used for outpatient treatment.

KVC’s Webster Groves campus, near Rock Hill Road, is one of several that the nonprofit operates throughout Missouri and other Midwest states. It currently offers adoption and foster care services, treatment for children with autism and other mental health and family-oriented services, Stephenson said.

While KVC and BJC Health, the health system that owns St. Louis Children’s Hospital, have worked together, the partnership is a more formal agreement, said Angela Martin-Davis, the president of Behavioral health at BJC.

Doctors and other health workers from Washington University Medical School, BJC and Children’s will work at the new campus along with KVC staff, she said.

The new hospital will add to the 14 mental health beds Children’s Hospital currently has for pediatric patients.

“Our hospital emergency departments are seeing more children with severe mental health issues that actually lack the resources to be able to provide the care that they need,” Martin-Davis said. "The shortage of inpatient behavioral health treatment … is causing our children and our families to experience delays in admission, lengthy wait times and even sometimes long travel times.”

Correction: St. Louis Children’s Hospital and KVC Missouri plan to build a hospital and inpatient center in Webster Groves. A previous version of this story mischaracterized the type of facilities that would be built.

Sarah Fentem is the health reporter at St. Louis Public Radio.