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Year after year, community surveys have tagged mental health treatment as the No. 1 gap in children’s services in this region.

Each day, three to five children seek crisis care in the emergency department at Children's Hospital of The King's Daughters. Those faces are part of a growing national trend: 1 in 5 children need mental health services. Less than a quarter of them receive it.

In response, CHKD is ushering in a new era of mental health services for our region.

CHKD received approval last year from the state to build a 60-bed mental health facility in Norfolk so children won’t have to spend days in emergency rooms awaiting inpatient psychiatric care.

Day treatment programs and licensed clinicians in the new treatment center, expected to take four years to build, will also ease the waits for children in the community who need counseling and other treatment.

The hospital system has already hired more pediatric psychiatrists and licensed mental health clinicians to bolster mental health services in its hospital and primary care practices.

It’s an enormous undertaking, and CHKD can’t do it alone. The hospital system is working with community leaders and stakeholders to design, fund, and create this mental health safety net in a community where children wait for help every day.