Mental Health Emergency Care

If you are concerned about an attempted overdose, or attempted suicide by any means, immediately call 911.

If you have concerns of self-harm, harm towards others, or notice a severe change in behavior, bring your child to the nearest emergency department for an evaluation. If you believe it is unsafe to bring the child yourself, call 911 to make arrangements for safe transport.

What to Bring With You to the Emergency Department

  • A list of your child's current medical and mental health medications
  • In the event of an overdose, the pill bottle(s) from which the pills were taken.
  • The names and contact information for your child's medical and mental health treatment providers.
  • Your diver's license and insurance card.

What to Expect Upon Arrival at the Emergency Department

Your child will be registered and triaged through the Emergency Department. If there are no medical concerns, your child may be placed in the Mental Health Emergency Services (MHES) wing of the Emergency Department. You and your child will also meet with a pediatric emergency room doctor, mental health evaluator, nurses, and often, medical doctor trainees. The purpose of these meetings is to ensure your child’s medical stability and to assess their safety.

The mental health evaluation will review your child’s mental health treatment history, mental health medication regimen, a history of symptoms, and the current problems. The ultimate goal of this evaluation is to ensure the child’s safety and to determine appropriate interventions.

If the clinical assessment determines your child's symptoms require inpatient hospitalization because of concerns for safety or symptoms that significantly interfere with functioning, it is likely mental health hospitalization will be recommended.

If the evaluation does not indicate a need for hospitalization, the team will assist you in creating a discharge plan. The discharge plan will include recommendations for other levels of care and follow up information as available. 

Being seen in our emergency room does not guarantee available outpatient care at CHKD.

Mental Health Emergency Services (MHES)

The MHES is 6-bed secured wing of the Emergency Department dedicated to treating children and adolescents who come to the Emergency Department with mental or behavioral health crises without any medical concerns. It has been designed for the care of patients with mental health concerns. It is not a psychiatric treatment facility and does not have 24-hour on site psychiatry coverage. Visitors in the MHES are limited. 

Acute Inpatient Mental Health Care 

Our acute inpatient psychiatric program is for children and adolescents experiencing mental health emergencies, including imminent risk of harm to self or others or severe disruption of the functions of daily living. This highly resourced program provides the greatest level of structure and safety for patients using evidence-based and proactive treatment approaches, and works collaboratively with families to develop and implement an ongoing individualized plan for success. Acute inpatient treatment is relatively brief. Length of stay varies by patient, averaging several days. As part of discharge planning, patients will often transition to stepdown services that will support their continued progress toward health.

Admitting Patients

Many inpatient admissions to Children’s Pavilion will begin in the emergency department at CHKD’s main hospital. When our mental health team determines that a child needs inpatient care, the patient is medically cleared and an available bed at Children’s Pavilion is assigned. We will transfer patients for admission in a new “safe car” through ambulance bays that connect to a bank of private elevators on the first floor. Patients will not pass through any public areas of the building during this process.