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New Gift from Members of the Pritzker Family to Address Crisis in Mental and Behavioral Health Among Children and Adolescents

January 11, 2022

Concerns about mental health consequences for children and adolescents arising from the COVID pandemic motivated the members of the Pritzker Family to make a gift to support greater access to services, staff appreciation and investment in clinical research in the Pritzker Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Health at Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago. The gift, valued at $6.45 million, follows the generous $15 million gift from the Pritzker Foundation in 2019 that resulted in the naming of the Department.

The gift will support several important Department initiatives, including:

  • strengthening the Department’s collaboration with the Patrick M. Magoon Institute for Healthy Communities, that serves as the hub for all Lurie Children’s community-focused initiatives;
  • investing in robust research and evaluation components for interventions of the Center for Childhood Resilience that address health needs from a public health perspective;
  • promoting a strong research agenda, including recruiting a national leader to further develop the Department’s research infrastructure and advance evidence-based approaches to improve outcomes for children and teens; and
  • supporting greater access to care by establishing new specialty clinics for the three most common diagnoses in the Department: anxiety, depression, and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

“This generous gift from members of the Pritzker Family will help build the scientific infrastructure of the Department so we can develop and implement innovative interventions to address the mental health impacts from the pandemic,” said John T. Walkup, MD, Head of the Pritzker Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Health. “Funding collaboration between the Magoon Institute and the Center for Childhood Resilience helps to promote systems change, increases access, and reduces mental health disparities so that we can have an impact far beyond the hospital’s walls. I’m so pleased that this contribution enables us to invest in our current staff and recruit nationally known leaders who, together, will establish Lurie Children’s as the national leader in child and adolescent psychiatry.” 

Lurie Children’s has been on the front lines of the mental health crisis since the pandemic began, with FY21 psychiatric outpatient visits increasing more than 28% over FY19, and a 20% increase in Emergency Department visits for mental or behavioral health reasons in the last year. Pritzker Department staff have been seeing two to three patients per day for suicidal ideation, compared to two to three per month prior to the pandemic. A recent community survey by the hospital found that more than four in 10 children and adolescents have experienced an increase in one or more mental health symptoms over the last six months.