‘We have to do more because our kids are worth it:’ Dayton Children’s unveils ‘historic’ investment in behavioral care



New building to represent $100 million total investment, with unspecified new jobs

Responding to what its leaders see increasingly as a national and local health crisis, Dayton Children’s Hospital will break ground in a year to 18 months on a $100 million building devoted to mental and behavioral health for children, doubling the number of beds the hospital has for those patients today.

The state of Ohio will put $25 million into the site, which will be located on Valley Street between Dayton Children’s main campus and its Connor Child Health Pavilion, hospital and state leaders said Monday.

“This is a major, major step for families in the Miami Valley,” Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine said at the hospital’s announcement.

The pandemic brought into sharp relief a growing need for in-patient beds for mental and behavioral health patients, with Dayton Children’s 24 current beds all too often filled, forcing physicians to call other area hospitals, which are wrestling with the same pressures and demands.

Dr. Kelly Blankenship, associate chief medical officer at Dayton Children’s, told listeners that just in February last year, nearly 180 patients were boarded in general medical units because there was no room in units devoted to mental health for children.

Just in 2021, some 1,088 children were admitted to Dayton Children’s for self-harm or depression — more than six times higher than the next busiest category of admissions, Blankenship said.

“We have to do more because our kids are worth it,” she said.

The new building will be located where a former HVAC goods supplier, 2J Supply, once stood.

The hospital acquired the property at 872 Valley St., then a single-story, 53,000-square-foot facility with about 4 acres of land, in May 2021 for $3.75 million.

At Monday’s press conference, Brian Brun, of Miamisburg, shared his family’s experience last year when his daughter, Emma, needed to heal after attempting suicide.

“My heart is broken for my daughter obviously,” he recalled. “But all of a sudden, I’m realizing how huge this problem is. I can’t find a bed for my daughter. Hundreds of other fathers are dealing with this exact thing at this moment — feeling helpless to get the care their child needs.”

Deborah Feldman, Dayton Children’s chief executive, said new employees will be needed at the facility, but she could not immediately offer a specific number of expected new jobs tied to the investment.

“As we expand services we will need more people who provide this incredible service,” Feldman said. “So workforce will be a very big part of this project, ensuring that we can attract, retain and support those people who have made their commitment to help our kids.”

The goal is to have the new building open and operating my mid-2025.

The state investment will come from federal ARPA (America Rescue Plan Act) funds, which will be invested in children’s hospitals across the state, according to DeWine’s office.

As part of the state’s “Pediatric Behavioral Health Initiative,” $84 million will go toward not just Dayton Children’s, but hospitals in Akron, Cincinnati, the ProMedica Russell J. Ebeid Children’s Hospital in Toledo and beyond.

“The need to increase access to behavioral health care has been growing nationwide for years,” DeWine said in a statement from his office, released shortly after his appearance in Dayton. “I am pleased that, here in Ohio, we place an emphasis on expanding treatment capacity and increasing accessibility for children and their families.

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