University of Maryland Children’s Hospital Plans Significant Enhancements to Pediatric Emergency Department to Meet Escalating Youth Mental Health Needs

June 23, 2022

In response to an increasing number of children and adolescents needing emergency psychiatric care, the University of Maryland Children’s Hospital (UMCH) is renovating its Pediatric Emergency Department with financial support from multiple donors. UMCH is located at the University of Maryland Medical Center (UMMC), the University of Maryland Medical System’s flagship academic hospital in downtown Baltimore.

Construction is slated to begin this year on making an area in the existing Pediatric ED a more private and dedicated space for triaging patients experiencing a mental health emergency. Architectural plans include four rooms for patient care, a dedicated play/occupational therapy room, a bathroom with a shower and a work station for staff. The renovated area is targeted for completion in the summer of 2023.

Youth mental health has been an ongoing topic during the COVID-19 pandemic, although feelings of depression, suicide ideation and other mental health challenges were rising well before COVID-19, as noted late last year by U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy. However, the pandemic has exacerbated a myriad of mental health issues confronting children and adolescents. For much of 2020, overall pediatric ER visits for mental health conditions spiked by double digits across age groups in the country. While those numbers have since declined for some mental health conditions, they continue to rise for others, especially for adolescent girls, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“Nationally and locally, we must evolve our emergency departments to better meet the needs of patients in a mental health crisis, especially when those patients are children. One only has to look at the numbers to understand why,” said Getachew Teshome, MD, Associate Professor of Pediatric Emergency Medicine at the University of Maryland School of Medicine (UMSOM), and Chief of the Pediatric Emergency Department at UMCH.

SECU Maryland, UMCH board, ER chief and other donors lead financial support

Renovations are expected to cost approximately $600,000. SECU Maryland, the state’s largest credit union, on behalf of its philanthropic arm--SECU MD Foundation--has pledged to underwrite a significant portion of that sum with a donation of $100,000.

The credit union is a longtime supporter of multiple units within the University of Maryland Children’s Hospital, with financial contributions including upgrades to the neonatal intensive care unit; the purchase of sleep chairs in every room of the pediatric intensive care unit; and now this gift to the Pediatric ED. To date, SECU Maryland has contributed close to $250,000 to the children’s hospital.

Other donors funding these important improvements include the Drs. Rouben and Violet Jiji Foundation, The Gilbert Geldman Foundation, the board of the University of Maryland Children’s Hospital, as well as the head of the Pediatric Emergency Department himself, Dr. Teshome.

“Triaging a child in the midst of a mental health crisis is different from caring for a child who has a physical injury or illness—and the environments must be different, too. The renovated space will provide a calming setting to help stabilize patients more quickly, whether that’s through de-escalation, activating medication, observation, or a combination,” said Sarah Edwards, DO, Assistant Professor of Psychiatry at UMSOM and Director of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at UMMC.

Dr. Edwards also advised parents and caregivers what to do if their child appeared to be experiencing a mental health crisis: “If you are concerned about your child’s mental health, contact your child’s pediatrician who is trained to screen, identify, and provide guidance on behavioral health issues. However, if your child is threatening to hurt themselves or others, or has made a suicide attempt, an emergency mental health evaluation is warranted.”

“So many patients and families look to the University of Maryland Children’s Hospital as a lifeline in the midst of crisis. On their behalf, I want to thank SECU Maryland, our board of directors, and our visionary clinical leaders for continuing to expand our capacity to care for the whole health of children,” said Steven J. Czinn, MD, the Drs. Rouben and Violet Jiji Endowed Professor and Chair, Department of Pediatrics at UMSOM, and Director of UMCH.

CRGA Design will be the architect for the renovations.

If interested in making a financial donation to children’s mental health care at the University of Maryland Children’s Hospital, please visit


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