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An Urgent Need for Mental Health Services and Care

An Urgent Need for

Mental Health Services and Care

“Children around the world are facing a mental health crisis. I am fortunate to live in a community that is rallying together to help us provide the best evidence-based care and services to help our region’s children, youth, and families.”

–Michael A. Scharf ’01M (Res), ’03M (Flw)
Psychiatrist-in-Chief, Golisano Children’s Hospital

A National State of Emergency.

The American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, and the Children’s Hospital Association have joined together to declare a national state of emergency in children’s mental health. At the University of Rochester Medical Center, the Division of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry works tirelessly to bring positive change to our community by promoting healthy development to help all children reach their full potential. We now provide more mental health services than ever before, but we must do more to meet the need in our communities.

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Our Children’s Mental Health Crisis.

The COVID-19 pandemic has intensified this crisis in children’s mental health. Across the country, the need for a wide variety of mental health services has skyrocketed. Upstate New York is no different.

We are the region’s largest provider of behavioral health services for children and families, and only provider for acute crisis services. Thirty-five child psychiatrists and psychologists, along with social workers, therapists, and nurses, run a wide range of programs to help children and adolescents, and to educate families, primary care physicians, and school professionals.

The Vision.

We must enhance health promotion and resiliency–building strategies, identify and address mental health issues in children early on, and provide the spectrum of care for children when and where they need us. This requires innovative approaches, new facilities, and expanded services.


  • Suicide is the second leading cause of death for 10 to 18-year-olds.
  • Over 60% of youth with major depression do not receive any mental health treatment. Even in states with the greatest access to care, nearly one in three youth are going without treatment.
  • 15% of youth experienced a major depressive episode in the past year. Multiracial youth are at greatest risk.


  • Pediatric Behavioral Health and Wellness Outpatient Service receives over 100 new requests weekly for services.
  • Despite expanded capacity, the waitlist for Adolescent Partial Hospitalization is currently longer than it has ever been, with over 160 youth waiting for this level of care.
  • The Monroe County Mobile Crisis team can respond to only 77% of referrals triaged to be appropriate for this service.

Investments in Pediatric Behavioral Health Make a Difference

group of four individuals posing for a pictureOne of the most vital new pediatric behavioral health services the Mobile Crisis Team (MCT), a multi-disciplinary unit that provides rapid-response services to children in both home and school environments. The benefits of the MCT are clear: They are able to provide immediate, coordinated care in a safe environment for children and adolescents undergoing a mental health crisis.


Learn more


interior rendering of a medical waiting roomOur most pressing need is to create an urgent care center, within the next year on the URMC campus, to provide emergency assessments and interventions, community-wide coordination of youth family crisis services, and the development of innovative best practices for crisis intervention. This center will provide critical services for all youth and schools in our community as our crisis management strategic plan for the region unfolds.

We also need to establish behavioral health services for youth downtown and on the west side of the Rochester Metropolitan area to provide critical services for children and youth near where they live.


The expansion of in-school, partial hospitalization, and creative arts therapy programs are our three top programmatic needs.

School Services

The educational services we provide in the school districts help us prevent mental health crises in the community by enhancing the sophistication and skills of school professionals and identifying the children and youth who may need our services.

We envision expanding the number of school districts served, and being able to focus on those with the greatest demonstrated need.

In addition, we want to develop partnerships with community organizations to deliver educational services for their professionals. For example, the YMCA is interested in staff education for their pre-school and summer camp providers.

Partial Hospitalization

Our goal is to expand the partial hospitalization program by establishing a new program for children under the age of 12, and providing virtual services via telemedicine to those children and youth who require partial hospitalization, but cannot travel to us.

Creative Arts Therapy

Art, music, and drama therapy programs provide advantages important to mental health treatment, recovery, and well-being. Children and youth often benefit from approaches that are creative, non-verbal, distanced/projective, and playful to help them develop and better express their thoughts and feelings, build trust, resiliency, and self-confidence, and develop essential coping skills to address their challenges.

Our goal is to offer what is truly needed: weekly, seasonal, and annual programs for youth of all ages in a comprehensive creative arts therapy program.

“I can finally say that I can see the light at the end of the tunnel that I have been looking for—for so long.”

—Patient testimonial