GROVE CITY, Ohio (WCMH) – Two of the largest caretakers of Columbus’ youth are teaming up to open a state-of-the-art facility to house kids recovering from mental illness.
On Jan. 10, The Buckeye Ranch and Nationwide Children’s Hospital announced their plans to break ground this spring on a 48-bed mental health treatment center in Grove City to bolster the support network for youth facing mental health challenges, according to Vickie Thompson-Sandy, president and CEO of The Buckeye Ranch.
“With isolation and fear and losses that many youth experienced (during the pandemic), it really exacerbated the increase in mental health needs that we are seeing, and so this residential facility is a solution, one solution, to that increased need,” Thompson-Sandy said.
The 57,000-square-foot facility, set to open in 2025, will complement The Buckeye Ranch’s existing Grove City campus at 5665 Hoover Road. Most of its residents will be children who are transitioning from a hospital stay but aren’t quite ready to return home.
A step down from inpatient psychiatric care, the new center is designed to allow youth additional time to stabilize before moving back to their communities – a way to avoid back-to-back visits to a hospital’s emergency room, Thompson-Sandy said.
“That doesn’t build great care for our youth, so this allows that continuum to fill that gap,” she said.
For Sheri Dunagan, the center is a welcome addition to Grove City. A longtime resident who works as the city’s business and community relations specialist, Dunagan said she and her husband spent years navigating the complex web of mental health care to seek help for three of her five children – all of whom are now recovered.
She said she was handed a lengthy list of phone numbers to call to address her child’s suicidal ideation after an emergency room visit, leaving her overwhelmed and confused about where to turn.
“You’re making all these phone calls, and meanwhile, my kid was just talking about harming themselves. What am I supposed to do for those two weeks?” Dunagan said. “We’re left to just hold on and pray, and it never worked.”
“I am so excited that the family that might struggle with this in the future, that they can have someplace to go after that visit,” she said.
In the early stages of addressing her children’s mental health needs, Dunagan said she and her husband “kept it a secret” aside from family. It wasn’t until her daughter, who is diagnosed with bipolar disorder, requested Dunagan stand in front of her 6th-grade class to explain the illness.
“There are so many families out there struggling with it, and generations of ‘Keep it quiet, don’t tell anyone, keep it to yourself, don’t cry in public, work through it,’” Dunagan said. “But the biggest advice I have? You’re not as alone as you think you are.”
The Buckeye Ranch and Nationwide’s new facility will offer psychiatric and medical services, Thompson-Sandy said, and will feature an education center, recreational rooms, and a slew of other activities for its youth residents.
“The youth that we serve who have the most complex mental health needs don’t really see hope for their future when they’re at the stage of harming themselves or having suicidal ideation,” Thompson-Sandy said. “Our mission is about restoring that hope and providing healing to kids, so that really is what we’re trying to do.”
To watch a fly-through video with proposed renderings of the center, visit The Buckeye Ranch’s Vimeo account.