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New behavioral health chief at Children’s develops plan

As growing numbers of children across Georgia suffer with depression, anxiety and suicidal thoughts, Dr. John Constantino said he has developed a plan to help curb the crisis by providing new outpatient mental health services at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta.

Constantino joined Children’s in August as its first system chief of Behavioral and Mental Health.

In an interview with the AJC, Constantino said building new outpatient services will allow Children’s to make a lasting impact on kids and also prevent them from reaching a crisis point.

“Everybody has a right to be impatient about the mental health crisis, the entire country should be impatient about it, I’m impatient about the mental health crisis of youth,” Constantino said. “But how we respond to that has to be strategic. We cannot make the same mistakes of the past.”

Constantino told the AJC that he intends to hire new staff to provide new outpatient services for children leaving crisis stays at psychiatric hospitals. He wants to expand an outpatient mental health clinic for patients also getting care at Children’s for physical health issues. He also plans to create a “two-generation” preventive program where both children and their parents can get care. “We cannot divorce a system transformation for the mental health of children from unmet mental health needs of their parents,” he said.

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