A colorful room that includes rolling desks, a mural and relaxing nook for teens struggling with emotional issues.
The new Akron Children's Behavioral Health Center will have multiple programs that help youth ages 12 to 18 cope with depression, anxiety and other emotional issues. The center is located at 1027 S. Trimble Road.

MANSFIELD — Dr. Eva Szigethy saw six teens under the age of 15 come to the Akron Behavioral Health Center needing psychiatric help on Saturday night.

“Every single one was suicidal and three of those kids had never received any kind of behavioral healthcare,” Szigethy said. “From their perspective, they’re terrified and stressed.

“Medical spaces can be a traumatic place, so building regional centers that are friendly and inviting helps us treat our patients and pause to see the person in front of us.”

Szigethy is the director of Pediatric Psychiatry and Behavioral Health at Akron Children’s Hospital. She led a tour of the newest stand-alone facility dedicated to pediatric behavioral health in Mansfield on Tuesday.

“The demand has increased both in our region and nationally,” she said. “It is critical for us to tackle problems like anxiety and depression in general and to provide immediate, helpful services for families who have a child in a behavioral health crisis.”

Szigethy said the staff’s ultimate goal is to prevent the need for emergency care visits by employing early behavioral health screening and intervention in both pediatric offices and in centers.

The new center is located at 1027 S. Trimble Road next door to Akron Children’s Health Center. The facility will offer most of the behavioral health programs available at the hospital’s main campus in downtown Akron, including outpatient therapy, medical management, and the partial hospitalization program.

Staff will focus on serving teens ages 12 to 18 while they’re still in school and their family members. Patients will learn coping skills for anxiety, depression and other emotional/ behavioral health concerns.

Patients will be expected to bring schoolwork to the facility if they are in the outpatient program. The partial hospitalization program (PHP) is an intensive psychiatric service for youth ages 12–18 that uses cognitive behavioral therapy and other evidence-based programming to help stabilize participants’ mental status and teach coping skills.

The PHP program is a full-day commitment for up to 10 days that includes a psychiatric assessment, different levels of therapy work, art and music therapy, yoga, physical and spiritual wellness and goal-setting. 

A teacher/school liaison is also on-site for time set aside for schoolwork.

An intensive outpatient program also offers resources for young adults for a three-hour per day commitment. The Mansfield branch can also serve as transitionary care after a patient is discharged from hospitalization.

The facility has nine interview rooms for patients to talk to therapists and a triage room to measure height, weight and vitals before staff begins medical work. Therapists are also licensed to provide telehealth services for virtual appointments.

‘An amazing resource’

The 33 Forever board donated to the Mansfield behavioral health center in honor of Danielle Leedy, who died by suicide in 2019.

Jeff Heck, board chair and Danielle’s step-father, said the Akron Children’s Health system was the family’s first experience with psychiatric care after Leedy’s first suicide attempt.

Donna and Jeff Heck

“Really our first entry into the mental health world was after Danielle’s first attempt when she was 15,” Heck said. “It can be disruptive to drive an hour for that kind of care, but you do it when you’re trying to save your kid.

“Having this in Mansfield is such an amazing resource. We’re grateful that Akron Children’s has made an investment to provide that help to the kids and families in our region.”

Donna Heck, 33 Forever president and Leedy’s mother, said supporting the behavioral health center was an easy decision for the board of directors.

“It’s really full circle for us,” she said. “These guys have a heart for kids’ mental health like I have never seen.

“They have helped us in so many ways. Akron Children’s saved Dani for at least five or six years for sure.”

Center will collaborate with other organizations

Doug Straight, service line director for Akron Behavioral Health, said Akron Children’s is working to collaborate with other mental health service providers in the county and not compete with them.

“We’ve met with the Mental Health and Recovery Board already, and we haven’t hired any of our clinical staff members out of the community agencies here,” Straight said. “So we haven’t affected the staffing at other agencies.”

The Mansfield facility’s five-year plan is to have 20 staff members including mental health therapists, nurse practitioners and a medical director for the Mansfield branch. 

Straight said his goal is to achieve 10,000 patient visits annually.

Local lead donors of the Mansfield behavioral health center include the 33 Forever Foundation, the S.N. Ford and Ada Ford Foundation and the Gorman Family Foundation.

American Rescue Plan Act funding from the state of Ohio also supported the project.

Families are encouraged to discuss concerns with their child’s pediatrician to see if referrals are appropriate. Self-referrals are also welcome by calling 330-543-5015.

It is critical for us to tackle problems like anxiety and depression in general and to provide immediate, helpful services for families who have a child in a behavioral health crisis.

— Eva Szigethy, director of Pediatric Psychiatry and Behavioral Health at Akron Children’s Hospital

This new facility is not a crisis center. If a child is in a mental or behavioral health crisis, they should be brought to the emergency room in Akron or the situation can be assessed 24/7 by calling the hospital’s Psychiatric Intake Response Center (PIRC) at 330-543-7472.

Akron Children’s is an independent, nonprofit pediatric health care system that has been caring for children in northeast Ohio since 1890. The system has two hospital campuses, six regional health centers and more than 50 primary and specialty care locations throughout Ohio.

The Akron Children’s healthcare system provided more than 1.3 million patient encounters last year. Akron Children’s home care nurses provide thousands of in-home visits, and school-based health center nurses manage clinic visits for students from preschool through high school.

Families can also receive help anytime through Quick Care Online virtual visits and Akron Children’s Anywhere app. Learn more about these resources at akronchildrens.org 

Ball State journalism alumna. Passionate about sharing stories, making good coffee and finding new podcasts. You can reach me at grace@richlandsource.com.