Dayton Children’s behavioral health hospital on track for spring 2025 opening

Local mom shares impact of mental, behavioral health services for family.

As part of the health system’s growth throughout the region, Dayton Children’s largest ongoing project—its $110 million behavioral health hospital—is on track for its spring 2025 completion date.

The need for it hits close to home for one of the hospital’s employees, Melissa Smith, a social worker and a care coordinator with Partners for Kids, which has a partnership with Dayton Children’s Hospital.

“Many of you can imagine my dilemma when my teenage daughter started to struggle with her own mental health crisis in May of 2021,” Smith said. “I found myself struggling immensely.”

Smith’s daughter approached her and told her she had taken eight to 10 Tylenol pills when Smith got home from work one day. When taking her daughter to Dayton Children’s, Smith worried about the stigma of mental health, even though she has worked closely with families dealing with the same issues. Prior to being a care coordinator, Smith was the manager of the mental health resource connection program.

“I was concerned that I would be judged. I worried people would question whether I was a good social worker or, even worse, was I a good parent,” Smith said. “The reality was, neither of us were judged. We were treated with care and kindness that were so desperately needed in that very difficult moment and the very difficult days that followed.”

Smith’s daughter was admitted to Dayton Children’s inpatient unit and then into a day treatment program where she learned coping mechanisms and skills to better manage her emotions, Smith said.

“She continues with therapy and is happier and healthier today,” Smith said.

Everyone has a story about how mental health has impacted them or a loved one, said Deborah Feldman, president and CEO of Dayton Children’s. The hospital saw approximately 7,000 kids last year who came to them in crisis.

“This issue of our children’s mental health is absolutely affecting everyone anywhere we go, so by bringing all of these services together, we really do think we’ll make a difference,” Feldman said.

Walls are expected to go up soon on the building in the next couple of weeks, said Mike Monjot, senior director of behavioral health at Dayton Children’s.

“It’s on track. It’s on schedule,” said Monjot. “We’re finalizing the concrete pours.”

The behavioral health building will have a crisis center, along with outpatient services, on the first floor. The second and third floors will have 24 inpatient rooms each for behavioral health patients.

“It’s for kids that are in an emergency for mental health,” Dr. Kelly Blankenship, Dayton Children’s associate chief medical officer for behavioral health, said about the crisis center.

The hospital will double the number of behavioral health beds from 24 to 48, moving behavioral health beds from the main hospital over to this new one in 2025.

Dayton Children’s is still actively raising money for this new hospital, though the campaign has not gone public yet, according to the Dayton Children’s Foundation Board.

The hospital is receiving $25 million in funds from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA). Another $2 million in federal funding is expected to come from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) in an upcoming appropriations bill.

On Tuesday, U.S. congressman Mike Turner said the bill had passed the House but needed to make its way through the Senate. He anticipates it will pass, though, with the $2 million in funding for Dayton Children’s.

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