Middleton hospital to open children’s inpatient psychiatric unit

MIDDLETON, Wis. – Miramont Behavioral Hospital is set to open a new adolescent unit by early December to help meet the demand for kids in need of mental health support.

The Middleton hospital’s CEO, Saad Niazi, said the inpatient unit will double the number of private operator beds in Dane County for children aged 12 to 17 by adding at least 28 beds.

Niazi said the need is so great that for months they’ve had to turn away about a dozen kids a week that they weren’t yet equipped to take. He also said families in the area seeking care have had to drive hours away or found themselves on six-month wait lists to get mental health care for their children. Some go without any help altogether.

“Everybody is doing the best they can, it’s just that the need has grown at such an exponential pace, it’s hard for anybody to keep up,” Niazi said.

UW Hospital’s Dr. Allie Hurst said the lack of resources often means kids are ending up in her emergency department. Hurst, who works as the medical director of the Pediatrics Emergency Department, said they saw a 112 percent increase in the number of kids seeking psychiatric care in 2021.

She said the large spike in the number of kids presenting with suicidal ideation has been especially challenging as they also have to manage a rise in respiratory illness among children.

“Suicidal thoughts are an emergency, but it is really difficult to be able to see those patients and prioritize kids who are having trouble breathing at the same time,” Hurst said. “We are doing the best that we can with the resources that we have available now, but the impetus to actually grow our psychiatric care for children is there.”

Niazi said he knows Miramont can’t close the gap completely, but he’s hoping the new unit will start to help fill that void.

“It’s tough, right? Those of us that have worked in health care, we want to be able to treat everybody all the time where they are at,” he said.

The new unit will include a classroom to help kids learn social, emotional, and coping skills. It will also feature a gym for exercise, art, and animal therapy, among other things. Staff said students would spend most of their time outside of their rooms.

They also said most recommendations will come from families, law enforcement, or schools. Each patient will have a roommate and lengths of stay will vary.