New $200 Million Child Mental Health Facility at NYU
Although the recent announcement of a new $200 million-dollar child mental health facility to be built at New York University (NYU)—which will be the largest such center in the world—was major news, the political and educational movers and shakers who envisioned and put into motion this extraordinary, much-needed initiative, to open in 2009, put their own personal mark on their investment when they gathered at the NYU First Avenue and 33rd Street Child Study Center recently, which Mayor Bloomberg formally proclaimed Child Mental Health Day. Governor Pataki, credited with ensuring that substantial state funds would support such a facility, especially for those on Medicaid, reversing a long-term state policy of not budgeting for such a project, noted that the new center’s emphasis on research would be carried out by the city’s “fourth largest employer” and would fill “a great void.” Besides, he added, NYU was a superb institution—his own daughter, told by others that effects of a hand injury would have to be endured for life, found otherwise at NYU.
In introducing the governor, Dr. Harold S. Koplewicz, the founder and director of NYU’s Child Study Center, dramatically declared that his first remarks would be “grim”—ten million Americans under 18 have psychiatric disorders, 70 percent of whom never get help. For New York the figures were especially depressing, as other speakers also noted: one out of three able to get some help, but only one out of five African Americans and one out of seven Hispanics. Mayor Bloomberg, who made his own NYU connection—his younger daughter is an undergraduate and his mother was a graduate—wondered aloud why mental health problems seemed to be on the increase but said the new center would surely focus on this peculiarity and set its research in the context of global health initiatives. In turn speaker after speaker cited NYU’s unique reputation to carry out the new initiative, invoking the school’s motto—“a private university in the public service.” Indeed, NYU President John E. Sexton, recalling the call of Thomas Jefferson’s Secretary of the Treasury Albert Gallatin for a campus “in and of the city,” proudly noted that NYU has no grass or gates but plenty of heart and intellect, and NYU Dean of the School of Medicine Robert M. Glickman renewed the university’s dedication to do in less time for mental health what Drs. Salk and Sabin had marvelously effected for polio years ago.
Though the tributes were sincere and impressive, with particular thanks to the governor for his commitment of over $30 million for creating a New York State Center of Excellence at the Child Study Center at NYU, clearly the most moving part of the announcement ceremony was the incredibly emotional testimony of four family members who said, simply and briefly, choking up at times, how much the NYU Child Study Center has meant to them, how in fact, it saved their lives. Kate and Tony Alicea, Nancy and Michael Davis, Jeremy Snyder and Gabriel Shaikh were eloquent spokespeople for what NYU has already accomplished and thus prophets in a way of what the new 120,000 square foot facility might achieve with 12 laboratories, 500 research faculty, trainees and staff, and the largest child and adolescent psychiatry training program in the country, including “a comprehensive clinical and research Eating Disorders Program, a state-of-the-art Autism Center and a lab school for public school students at risk for violence and conduct disorders.” The Center will also operate in conjunction with a new Orangeburg, Rockland County Children’s Psychiatric Center. Board of Directors Chair Brooke Garber Neidich, of course, is thrilled, but the applause by those who crowded into the room to hear the announcement was spontaneous. The project means that the 2,000 children now attending the center as outpatients may triple, even quadruple, and that thousands of pediatricians will be trained to recognize and treat depression, anxiety and ASDHD, and many more encouraged to enter this growing field. Those seeking immediate information on the Child Study Center should log onto www.AboutOurKids.org.#