St. Louis Children’s Hospital and Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis are tackling the issue of behavioral health support that has emerged as a leading health concern in our country — for people of all ages. The challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic have revealed the number of children suffering and how few resources are available to help. A new $15 million gift from Bob and Signa Hermann will have a profound impact on our patients and families, both in St. Louis and, eventually, beyond.
The Hermann Center for Child and Family Development will be housed within the Children’s Discovery Institute, a partnership between St. Louis Children’s Hospital and Washington University School of Medicine that is the result of a shared vision to change the way pediatric research is conducted and an intense commitment to bring about dramatic improvements in pediatric care. The Hermann Center will blend world-class research with a revolutionary model for whole-family behavioral health care. The Hermann family invites the community to join them in improving behavioral health for families throughout the St. Louis region and beyond. The total amount needed to fully fund the Hermann Center is $20 million. Their $15 million gift also encompasses a match challenge, intended to help the St. Louis Children’s Hospital Foundation raise an additional $5 million in support of the center’s long-term goals and programs.
“There is a great need historically for a center of this magnitude here in St. Louis,” said Bob Hermann. “While the unveiling was accelerated due to the COVID-19 pandemic, pediatric behavioral health has been underfunded for some time. Signa and I want to ensure the future of children with a variety of conditions is limitless and families receive transformational care that leads to long and healthy lives.”
The Hermann Center will be the first of its kind to adopt a transgenerational approach to reducing the burden of serious behavioral health conditions of childhood, one that engages the whole family and that will track the results of this care for a decade or more. What the Hermann Center learns has the potential to improve key aspects of how behavioral health-care needs for children are identified and managed — from how parents interact with their new babies, to how medical professionals identify and address risk factors and genetic predispositions for behavioral health problems, to the way kids learn coping skills that they can carry with them for life.
The Hermann Center will focus on identifying children at elevated genetic or environmental risk of experiencing a behavioral health impairment — then providing education and support for parents, applying evidence-based preventive intervention, and instituting behavioral health treatment, if and when it is necessary, at the earliest possible juncture in each child’s life. All services will be seamlessly delivered to the child and family, integrated around the needs of the family — circumventing the current fragmented system of services and agencies that make access excessively difficult. Washington University clinician-scientists in the school’s Division of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry – working with St. Louis Children’s Hospital – have led the world in understanding and preventing the earliest origins of behavioral health conditions of childhood. Innovations pioneered by this team will be implemented in the new model of care provided within the Hermann Center.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimate that one in five kids will experience a behavioral health problem during their school years. In St. Louis, that translates to an estimated 125,000 kids, making behavioral health one of the greatest health-care needs in our community. More than 1,900 patients have been treated at St. Louis Children’s Hospital since January 2020 — almost double the prior year’s volume.
Behavioral health encompasses social, emotional, and mental health and the ability to cope with life’s challenges. Children today face stress, anxiety, bullying, family problems, depression, learning disabilities, and alcohol and substance abuse. Serious behavioral health problems, such as self-injurious behaviors and suicide, are on the rise, particularly among youth. Systemic race-based disparities in quality of life and health care have a profound negative impact on behavioral health for children and their families.