San Antonio/ Health & Lifestyle
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Published on June 12, 2024
San Antonio Boosts Youth Mental Health Services with New Pediatric ICU and Expanded FacilitiesSource: Google Street View

San Antonio's mental health landscape for young people is set to receive a substantial boost with the opening of eight new pediatric psychiatric intensive care unit rooms this August. Clarity Child Guidance Center, a nonprofit dedicated to children's mental health, is taking decisive steps to confront a sharp uptick in the demand for youth mental health services—a demand that has seen an 86% rise in patients placed on suicide risk precautions and an 89% increase in law enforcement referrals. The intensive care unit, named Methodist Healthcare Ministries Living Unit, firmly represents the first phase in a broader plan to to significantly expand the organization's capacity and services, according to the San Antonio Report.

The $7 million investment encompasses not just the new ICU but also the renovation of the center's kitchen, which is slated to begin feeding up to 125 patients starting July 1. Carol Carver, Clarity's chief operating officer, stressed the need for the expansion, pointing out that San Antonio is experiencing rapid growth and that "we don’t have enough psychiatric care for patients right now," according to her statements obtained by the San Antonio Report. New facilities will include individual and group therapy rooms, a therapeutic private recreation space, and an outdoor courtyard, with the promise to serve an additional 700 kids annually.

The importance of this expansion was echoed at a ribbon-cutting ceremony by public officials such as State Sen. José Menéndez and Bexar County Judge Peter Sakai. In a grim reminder of the stakes involved, Menéndez highlighted the rising suicide rates among young people in Bexar County while lamenting the lack of state financial support for mental health services. "If it weren’t for places like Clarity that provide care our children desperately need and deserve … the numbers would be higher," he stated in the article by the San Antonio Report.

As for the financial aspects of this endeavor, Phase 1 was largely made possible through the center’s HEROES Campaign, whereas phases 2 and 3 remain on the horizon, depending on future funding successes. The center’s CEO, Jessica Knudsen, drives home the point that mental health funding doesn't fare well in the competition for charitable dollars. "In 2023, 40,000 people died from breast cancer, but 48,000 died from suicide, yet breast cancer raises 100 times more what we do for mental health," she said to the San Antonio Report. Clarity's initiative to increase the bed count from 66 to 74 and enhance their outpatient and crisis services is a testament to their commitment to addressing this critical gap in youth mental health care.