‘A Beacon of Light:’ Doctor raises money for children, adolescents waiting in the ER for psychiatric care

By Francie Williamson, Communications Coordinator, Department of Psychiatry

When Jeffrey Brown, MD, saw Carson King’s fundraising campaign for Stead Family Children’s Hospital go viral last fall, he got a similar idea.

“I just remember seeing his poster and thinking it was a really cool thing that he decided to make all those donations to pediatric health care,” Brown says. “It was really inspiring that so many people seemed to care and give donations.”

So, Brown decided to modify King’s idea to raise money for a cause close to his heart: children and adolescents visiting the emergency room for psychiatric care. In December, he took to Facebook to spread his message, and raised more than $10,000.

Dr. Jeffrey Brown raised more than $10,000 in December for children and adolescents waiting in the emergency room for psychiatric care at University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics.

Brown, who completed his residency in emergency medicine in 2019 at University of Iowa Hospitals & Clinics, now works throughout Eastern Iowa as an emergency room doctor for Trinity UnityPoint. He says during almost every shift in the emergency room, he will see at least one child or adolescent requiring psychiatric care.

“It seems like anxiety and depression and bullying are so prevalent, we often see kids who are trying to deal with the emotional reactions or responses,” Brown says. “Sometimes that leads to the emergency department, unfortunately, when they are having suicidal thoughts or questioning reasons to live. In an ER, our job is to assess risk and get people the help they need.”

Often, that help is available at UI Hospitals & Clinics.

Hanna Stevens

“I would call us the ICU for child psychiatry” says Hanna Stevens, MD, PhD, associate professor of psychiatry and director of child and adolescent psychiatry at UI Hospitals & Clinics. “When it comes to critically ill children and knowing how to help, I think that’s what we do very well.”

Brown says during his residency, he saw that that UI Hospitals & Clinics is willing to treat all patients.

“The university is a beacon of light where patients can get help and get specialty care,” Brown says. “It doesn’t turn patients away. Sometimes they’ll transfer patients out to other hospitals, but never for complexity. They’ll see any patient no matter how complex.”

Pediatric Psychiatric Care in the ER

On a recent January afternoon at the emergency room at University of Iowa Hospitals & Clinics, five pediatric patients were in the ER waiting for psychiatric care. Two rooms in the ER, which are set aside for behavioral health patients, were occupied. The other pediatric patients had to wait in rooms that are not set up for behavioral health patients. One watched TV, as another spoke with a hospital volunteer.

Stevens says it’s highly variable as to how many patients are waiting in the emergency room at any given time.

“The need fluctuates so much. We’ve had no patients waiting for beds for days or weeks and then it can suddenly increase over one or two days,” Stevens says.

According to the most recent data, about 70 pediatric patients per month were visiting the University of Iowa emergency room for psychiatric care, Stevens says. The average amount of time they spent in the emergency room neared 18 hours. However, over the past five months, for which data are not yet available, even higher levels of need have been seen.

Stevens says she is collaborating with Brown on how the money he raised can go toward enhancing pediatric patients’ care while they are waiting in the emergency room.

“Can we offer interventions to parents who need guidance on how to help their child? Can we offer interventions to kids when they’re in crisis? So that’s what we’re trying to think about, the enhancing of care at that level,” Stevens says.


Interested in helping out? Donate to the child and adolescent psychiatry division.

Tuesday, February 18, 2020