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DANVILLE, Pa. – Two new initiatives to create easy access to behavioral health services for local youth have received funding from a catalyst fund put in place to improve pediatric behavioral health in the region.


The first, the Bridge Clinic, will receive funding from the Susan W. McDowell Pediatric Behavioral Health Catalyst Fund to address the need for follow-up care for pediatric behavioral health patients who come to the emergency department in crisis. Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, there has been a national rise in suicidal thoughts and suicide attempts among school-age children, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics.


Approximately $130,000 will be awarded to create the Bridge Clinic to provide rapid access to children in crisis for follow-up care. The funds will be used to add additional staff, including a care manager and a scheduler.


“The Bridge Clinic will reduce the length of stay for our pediatric behavioral health patients and provide quick, effective access to care and care coordination,” said Pediatric Psychologist Dr. Samuel Faulkner, who applied for the funding. “The clinic will alleviate strain on our emergency medicine colleagues and provide interventions for children and families with professionals helping to navigate psychiatric crises. It will also ensure long-term access for patients with the appropriate behavioral health specialists.”


The second program to receive funding will offer psychological care for pediatric patients dealing with inflammatory bowel disease, including Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. The prevalence of both illnesses, which requires infusion therapy to help manage, have increased more than 130% in the past 10 years.


The diseases can cause loss of appetite, fatigue, diarrhea, rectal bleeding, delayed growth and the possible need for surgery. Youth dealing with these illnesses are at greater risk for depression, anxiety, social difficulties and poorer quality of life, according to the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation.


The catalyst funds will be used to embed a behavioral health specialist in the pediatric infusion center to provide assessment of patients and offer them coping and management skills for their gastrointestinal disorders, making access easier for young patients and families.


“Across the country, specialty pediatric medical providers, pediatric patients, and caregivers have been vocal about the need for improved access to psychosocial services for pediatric patients and families managing the daily stressors that can accompany pediatric chronic medical illnesses such as inflammatory bowel disease,” said Dr. Joel Winnick, Geisinger licensed psychologist. “The aim of this initiative is to provide psychosocial support to enhance coping skills for our pediatric patients and families who are receiving excellent medical care at Geisinger.”


Nearly $28,000 from the McDowell Catalyst Fund will be used to provide psychological care for IBD patients.


The Susan W. McDowell Pediatric Behavioral Health Catalyst Fund was created earlier this year from a $1 million commitment from Susan McDowell of Lewisburg. McDowell has long had a passion for pediatric behavioral health in the region, heading up several behavioral health initiatives during the last two decades and partnering with Geisinger in behavioral health for more than 20 years.


The two programs are the first to be awarded funds from the McDowell fund. A second round of funding is now open for applications from Geisinger providers. The McDowell Fund is part of Geisinger Health Foundation’s Beyond The Bricks campaign, which aims to provide funds for programs across the Geisinger footprint that create additional care opportunities for youth.


To contribute to the McDowell Behavioral Health Catalyst Fund, visit the Beyond the Bricks page or contact Glenn Bernius, director of pediatric fundraising for Geisinger Health Foundation.

About Geisinger
Geisinger is committed to making better health easier for the more than 1 million people it serves. Founded more than 100 years ago by Abigail Geisinger, the system now includes 10 hospital campuses, a health plan with more than half a million members, a research institute and the Geisinger College of Health Sciences, which includes schools of medicine, nursing and graduate education. With more than 25,000 employees and 1,700+ employed physicians, Geisinger boosts its hometown economies in Pennsylvania by billions of dollars annually. Learn more at or connect with us on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn and Twitter.


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Mike McMullen
Senior Communications Specialist