A youth mental health center will open in Grove City, Ohio

GROVE CITY, Ohio (WCMH) – Two of Columbus’ biggest youth caretakers are teaming up to open a state-of-the-art facility to house children recovering from mental illness.

On Jan. 10, The Buckeye Ranch and Nationwide Children’s Hospital announced plans to break ground this spring on a 48-bed mental health treatment center in Grove City to support a support network for youth facing mental health challenges, according to Vicki Thompson-Sandy, president and CEO of The Buckeye Ranch.

“With the isolation and the fear and the loss that many young people have suffered (during the pandemic), it’s really exacerbated the increase in mental health needs that we’re seeing, and so this residential facility is a solution, a solution, to that increased need,” Thompson Sandy said.

The 57,000-square-foot facility, slated to open in 2025, will complement Grove City’s existing The Buckeye Ranch campus at 5665 Hoover Road. Most of its residents will be children who are transitioning from a hospital stay but are not quite ready to return home.

A step down from inpatient psychiatric care, the new center is designed to give youths extra time to stabilize before returning to their communities — a way to avoid back-to-back hospital emergency room visits, Thompson-Sandy said.

“It doesn’t create a lot of concern for our youth, so it allows this continuum to fill that gap,” she said.

For Sherry Dunagan, the center is a welcome addition to Grove City. A longtime resident who works as a business and community relations specialist for the city, Dunagan said she and her husband spent years navigating the complex web of mental health care to get help for three of their five children — all of which they have already been recovered.

She said that after a visit to the emergency room, she was given a long list of phone numbers to call to address her child’s suicidal ideation, which left her devastated and confused about where to turn.

“You’re making all these phone calls and all the time my child was talking about self-harm. What should I do during these two weeks? Dunagan said. “We’re left to just hold on and pray, but that never works.”

“I’m so excited that a family that may be struggling with this in the future may have a place to go after this visit,” she said.

In the early stages of dealing with her children’s mental health needs, Dunagan said she and her husband “kept it a secret” away from the family. It wasn’t until her daughter, who is diagnosed with bipolar disorder, asked Dunagan to stand in front of her 6th grade class to explain the illness.

“There are so many families struggling with this and generations of ‘Shut up, don’t tell anyone, keep it to yourself, don’t cry in public, get over it,'” Dunagan said. “But the biggest piece of advice I have? You’re not as alone as you think.”

The new Buckeye Ranch and Nationwide facility will offer psychiatric and medical services, Thompson-Sandy said, and will have an education center, recreation rooms and a host of other activities for its youth.

“The youth we serve who have the most complex mental health needs don’t really see hope for their future when they are at the stage of self-harm or suicidal thoughts,” Thompson-Sandy said. “Our mission is to restore that hope and provide healing for kids, so that’s really what we’re trying to do.”

To watch a fly-by video with suggested images of the center, visit The Buckeye Ranch’s Vimeo account.

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