McLeod Regional Medical Center Receives Behavioral Health Crisis Stabilization Grant


McLeod Regional Medical Center will establish a pediatric behavioral health crisis stabilization unit thanks to grant funding from the South Carolina Department of Health and Human Services (SCDHHS). The McLeod Health Foundation applied for the $2.5 million grant through SCDHHS. The agency awarded 13 South Carolina hospitals a total of $45.5 million to build specialized hospital-based emergency department units dedicated to behavioral health crises.

The goal for McLeod is to establish a Pediatric EmPATH (Emergency Psychiatric Assessment, Treatment, and Healing) Unit in the McLeod Children’s Hospital for pediatric patients (<18 years of age) suffering from acute psychiatric crisis. This 15-bed specialized unit will provide a space dedicated to rapid improvement and stabilization for children to receive immediate treatment starting at the time of presentation. Additionally, the McLeod Pediatric Intensive Care Unit has both a pediatric intensivist and a pediatric hospitalist on call 24/7/365.

“This unit will provide specialized care for children experiencing psychiatric crises using the principles of patient-centered and evidence-based emergency assessment, stabilization, treatment, and healing,” said Tammy Abel, Vice President of Women’s and Children’s Services for McLeod Regional Medical Center. “Over the past few years, the national mental health crisis has only deepened, and pediatric mental health-related emergency department visits have been increasing, especially among girls. This project is a necessary response to the entrenched obstacles to care affecting this patient population.”

The pediatric patient treated at McLeod will receive intense individual and group therapy tailored to situation and cognitive and developmental stages. The premise is if a patient can be stabilized in a nurturing environment with professional and peer support within the initial 72 hours and de-escalated to a state of safety, outpatient follow-up treatment may serve as a sustainable alternative versus progression to acute inpatient psychiatric care.

SCDHHS’s goals through the establishment of this grant program are to ease overcrowding in the general emergency department, initiate needed urgent psychiatric treatment, and reduce unnecessary hospital inpatient admissions through the addition of therapeutic patient spaces for stabilization.

“SCDHHS is proud to partner with and invest in the hospitals who applied for grant funding to improve access to much-needed crisis stabilization services for South Carolinians who are experiencing behavioral health episodes,” said SCDHHS Director Robby Kerr. “Awarding these grant funds and building these units across the state are important steps in continuing to address gaps in South Carolina’s behavioral health delivery system. Once operational, these units will make a meaningful impact in their regions and across the state in reducing overcrowding in general emergency departments and reducing the wait time for initiating urgent psychiatric treatment for those in need.”

McLeod plans to have the Pediatric EmPATH Unit operational by July 2024.

Key Pediatric Behavioral Health Statistics from SCDHHS

  • Approximately 80% of youth in South Carolina with a major depressive episode do not receive mental health services.
  • According to a June 2023, CDC report, national suicide rates for people aged 10–24 increased from 2007 through 2021 (from 6.8 deaths per 100,000 to 11.0)
  • Nationally, mental health-related emergency department visits among adolescents increased by 31% in 2020 compared to 2019.
  • Emergency department visits for suspected suicide attempts among girls between the ages of 12 and 17 were 51% higher in February and March 2021 than during the same period in 2019.
  • High school students with depression are more than twice as likely to drop out than their peers.
  • Suicide is the second leading cause of death for South Carolinians between ages 10-14.
  • Suicide is the third leading cause of death for South Carolinians between ages 15-17.