$15 Million Gift from Pritzker Foundation to Fund Expanded Access to Much-Needed Mental Health Services for Youth

May 06, 2019

Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago is receiving a $15 million gift from the Pritzker Foundation to fund a major initiative to address the critical shortage of pediatric mental health care providers, and the acute lack of access to these services for children and adolescents in Illinois.

The gift – which is part of the hospital’s fundraising campaign for every child – allows Lurie Children’s John Walkup, MD, head of the newly-named Pritzker Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Health, to invest in models of care that will transform the way mental health care is delivered. 

“In Illinois almost 20 percent of children have a mental health problem before graduating from high school and only half have been in treatment,” said Dr. Walkup, who also is a Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine.  “One vital way to meet this need is for mental health providers to train their pediatric colleagues to identify and treat children with common mental health conditions such as ADHD, anxiety and depression as part of primary care. This way we can intervene early in life before these children develop more severe problems.” 

Dr. Walkup and his colleagues are working closely with Lurie Children’s specialists, advanced practice professionals, hospital staff and medical trainees at all levels to screen, diagnose and treat behavioral health issues. His program makes behavioral health a part of every patient’s assessment and care.  

“We are excited by Dr. Walkup’s vision for a new approach to the growing demand for these services, and we see this as an opportunity for Lurie Children’s to develop a best-in-class program,” said Michael Pucker, spokesperson for the Pritzker Foundation and a member of the Lurie Children’s medical center board. “Our family has dealt with its share of mental health issues, and we have been committed to mental health research for more than 50 years.  We are hopeful that our gift will have a life-altering impact in the field of pediatric behavioral healthcare.”

The Pritzker Foundation gift also supports the recruitment of more faculty, helps increase the quality of resident and fellow training programs and provides much-needed funding for behavioral health research.

“Across the country, there is a huge shortage of mental health providers -- psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers -- who specialize in children.” said Dr. Walkup. “According to the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, there are only 8300 child psychiatrists and 15 million children in need – one mental health provider for every 1800 youth who need services. With our current resources we will never be able to treat all the kids who need us. This gift allows us to ‘work smart’ and to reach more kids.”

Lurie Children's is one of the top children’s hospitals in the country according to US News & World Report. It is the pediatric teaching arm for Feinberg School of Medicine and one of only a handful of U.S. children’s hospitals with a dedicated pediatric research center, Stanley Manne Children’s Research Institute. Last year, the hospital treated more than 212,000 patients.