Northwell Health has opened its first pediatric behavioral health urgent care center in Suffolk County. The Cohen Children’s Northwell Health Behavioral Health Center at Commack provides immediate access to care for young people in crisis.
It is the third behavioral health urgent care center for children and adolescents that Northwell has opened since 2020 in collaboration with participating school districts and is part of a major initiative to address the increase in mental and emotional distress experienced by that age group – a trend that has been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. One out of five young people today suffers from mental health issues, and suicide is the second-leading cause of death for adolescents and children as young as age 10. Yet a shortage of adolescent mental health specialists makes it difficult for parents to find timely help, said Vera Feuer, MD, assistant vice president, school mental health, and director of emergency psychiatry at Northwell Health’s Cohen Children’s Medical Center in New Hyde Park.
“Around the country, families who need help for a child in a mental health crisis often have to wait months for an appointment with a specialist, a delay that can cause great suffering,” said Dr. Feuer. “At our behavioral health centers, we can see a child that same day to assess them, get them into immediate treatment to stabilize them and then connect them to a specialist for ongoing care.”
Northwell’s community-embedded behavioral health urgent care centers are made possible by an innovative collaboration with Long Island school districts, which ensures that treatment is available to all families – students whose families do not have health insurance are not turned away. Commack, Half Hollow Hills, Hauppauge, Sachem Central, Smithtown Central and South Huntington school districts are participating in the Suffolk County center. Students in those districts or their families can contact the center directly or may be referred by a teacher, counselor or other school professional. The collaboration will also provide professional development and support to school staff, as well as community education to help promote healthy habits among children and families.
This collaborative model was developed for Northwell’s first behavioral health urgent care center, which opened in Rockville Centre in early 2020. A second behavioral health urgent care center opened in Mineola in 2021. The two facilities have been working at full capacity since their launch and have provided urgent behavioral health care to more than 3,400 students so far.
The Commack center houses three patient rooms, as well as three additional rooms that will be used by Northwell Health Physician Partners Behavioral Health, a new practice that will provide ongoing behavioral health care to children, adolescents and adults. Northwell contributed $350,000 to build out the 2,000-square-foot center.
Along with its behavioral health urgent care centers and physician practices, the health system’s initiative to meet the behavioral health needs of children and teens also includes both emergency behavioral health services and a Pediatric Behavioral Health Urgent Care Center in Cohen Children’s Medical Center, as well as expanding outpatient services at Zucker Hillside Hospital. In addition, in a program launched in 2017 by Northwell’s dedicated psychiatric facility, South Oaks Hospital, a child psychiatrist regularly visits schools in districts across Long Island to provide drop-in mental health services for students.