Dayton Children’s plans $100M expansion, after $375M in campus improvements

Hospital will construct new behavioral health center to serve growing need

Dayton Children’s plans another major expansion of its main hospital campus, and the proposed project recently won a key approval and has been recommended for a needed zoning change.

The planned $100 million behavioral health center will help address a rapidly growing need for pediatric mental health services, officials say.

The project also will continue to transform a hospital campus that has seen more than $375 million in new investment in the last decade.

“This has been part of our strategic roadmap for the past 12 years to be the best health care resource for children in our region and beyond,” said Cindy Burger, vice president and chief experience officer at Dayton Children’s. “Because of these investments, we have expanded services and access to ensure that we can care for all of the needs of the children in our community.”

Dayton Children’s wants to build a new behavioral health center on a former industrial site located immediately northeast of its main campus in Old North Dayton.

Dayton Children’s has acquired the 16-acre site, located at 872 Valley St., which formerly was a warehouse belonging to 2J Supply.

The warehouse has been demolished and the vacant site sits between Dayton Children’s main facility to the south and the Connor Child Health Pavilion to the north.

The new center will be three stories and about 110,000 square feet, Burger said.

The hospital hopes to break ground on the facility in early 2023 and open it to patients in the first quarter of 2025.

The Dayton City Plan Board recently approved Dayton Children’s general development plan, which included details about a proposed parking configuration and the location of the new center.

The board also recommended approval of rezoning the 2J property from light industrial to campus institutional in support of the project.

The Dayton City Commission has to approve the zoning change.

Dayton Children’s current behavioral health inpatient unit opened in the main hospital in 2019 and has two dozen beds, Burger said.

The new center will have twice as many inpatient beds or more, and it will have behavioral health inpatient, outpatient and crisis services under one roof, she said.

The project also calls for outdoor space that supports healing, an expanded assessment area for crisis services and shell space for future expansion, she said.

Dayton Children’s proposes creating about 855 surface parking spaces, with parking on both the north and south sides of the center, said Jeff Green, a city of Dayton planner. Some of the development site is currently used as parking.

Dayton Children’s also wants to construct a “green belt” that essentially serves as a pedestrian corridor connecting the new center to the main campus, he said.

The new center is needed because Dayton Children’s behavioral health unit is full most of the year, said Dr. Kelly Blankenship, associate chief medical officer for behavioral health at Dayton Children’s.

The hospital often admits youth to its medical beds because not only does it not have mental health beds available, there aren’t any open beds anywhere else in the state, Blankenship said.

In February of this year, 178 youths were admitted to medical beds because no mental health beds were available, she said.

Demand for behavioral health services for youths was growing before COVID-19 hit, but the pandemic exacerbated the problem, Blankenship said.

Dayton Children’s admitted more than 1,000 kids last year for depression or thoughts of suicide, which was the most common reason for admission, she said.

The youth mental health crisis has multiple causes, likely including bullying on social media and mounting academic and social pressures, she said.

“There can also be the normalization of maladaptive behaviors on social media,” she said. “If a youth sees another child engaging in self-injurious behavior on social media, they may interpret this as a normal way to cope with negative emotions.”

Dayton Children’s has invested heavily in its main campus in Dayton and its south campus in Springboro.

An eight-story patient tower opened in the center of the main campus in June 2017. The state-of-the-art facility was the largest project in the hospital’s history, with a price tag of about $260 million.

The hospital built a $16 million employee garage in 2019.

Construction continues on a five-story specialty care outpatient center, which is expected to cost about $78 million. The 152,000-square-foot building will have four floors of outpatient clinic space and fifth-floor shell space.

Dayton Children’s also opened the first part of a major expansion of its south campus in October 2016.

The south campus now has a specialty care center, an ambulatory surgery center, urgent care and a 24/7 emergency department, and the expansion cost $47.5 million.

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