Because Children Need More Than Medicine to Thrive
Children of Bellevue: Get Connected
Featuring Information For Our Friends Who Care About Children in the Hospital

June, 2015
Dear Friends,                                                                               
This issue of our quarterly newletter is devoted to just one of the six program areas that Children of Bellevue supports throughout the year:  Child and Adolescent Psychiatry.   While other hospitals throughout the city have closed their doors to these patients, Bellevue Hospital has added a new 15-bed inpatient unit just for teens in psychiatric crisis. 
We have the only Children's Comprehensive Psychiatric Emergency Program in all of New York State, and were recently visited by NYC First Lady, Chirlane McCray, to inaugurate the opening of our Partial Hospital Program - an outpatient program that helps recently discharged psychiatric patients gently transition back to their communities.
Children of Bellevue believes that children need more than medicine to thrive.  I hope you will enjoy reading how we use our donor dollars to the fullest to provide the "extras" our patients would otherwise not have access to.



Jean Folsom

Director of Development

PS:  Please contact me if you would like to come for a private or group tour of Children of Bellevue programs: or 212-562-4130


A Family in Crisis: A Case Study

By Robin Vaughn, WordEntity

Imagine having two teenaged children admitted to the ER for acute psychiatric care needs within the space of a year. Lena's son and daughter were both considered to be at risk for suicide. As a mother, it was devastating for her.


In August of 2013, in the grip of manic anxiety and with self-inflicted wounds, 16-year old Grace landed in The Comprehensive Children's Psychiatric Emergency Program (CCPEP) at Bellevue Hospital Center. And in 2014, 15-year old Jordan modeled his coping mechanism after his older sister, and was subsequently admitted to Bellevue, overwhelmed by stress.


Based on candid family revelations, there may be a genetic correlation between the siblings' self-destructive tendencies. In 2004, Lena voluntarily admitted herself for in-patient psychiatric care for an extended period; she wanted to end her life. During that time she was misdiagnosed with Bipolar Disorder, which initiated a difficult trajectory for Grace a few years later, but not before Lena's younger brother did, in fact, commit suicide in 2007.


There were other troubling events swirling in the mix for this family. In 2013, Jordan's friend was struck by a car and killed, the same year his sister was admitted to Bellevue's ER on suicide watch. Whether their challenges were a result of DNA or circumstance, the outlook was not favorable.


Prior to coming to Bellevue, Grace suffered her worst moments as she was processed in and out of seven different hospitals between the summers of 2012 and 2013, sometimes without resources for follow-up care. Since Lena was already documented with Bipolar Disorder, the doctors at those hospitals were quick to arrive at the same diagnosis for Grace. Medication cocktails that included a host of anti-psychotic drugs in progressively higher doses were prescribed, agitating her condition. At times, she was left despondent and drooling. Understandably, Lena was concerned that her daughter might never be a functioning adult.


Finally, Lena was directed to the Child and Adolescent Psychiatry Program at Bellevue Hospital Center, where the doctors evaluated her children's needs with an open mind. They asked pertinent questions without making assumptions and afforded Lena the respect and courtesy of a collaborative approach to her children's treatment plans. What followed was nearly 18 months of intensive individual adolescent therapy, medication management, family counseling and mental health rehabilitation. The doctors determined that mother and daughter were both misdiagnosed with Bipolar Disorder. When Grace was taken off of the anti-psychotic drugs and both she and her brother were treated with the appropriate anti-depressants, everything changed for the better.


For six months each, Grace and Jordan participated in the Day Treatment Program, stepping down from in-patient care to a comprehensive support system that included high school classes, talk therapy, and medication management until they were ready for re-entry to a new school and social activities. Today, they still receive therapy, take appropriate medications and continue to develop their coping skills.


Lena believes that Bellevue Hospital renewed her family, and most likely saved her children's lives. She is especially grateful to Dr. Eric Alcera (Deputy Director of the Child and Adolescent Psychiatry Department, and Director, Child and Adolescent Day Treatment Program) who provided exceptional care and concern for her children when they were in crisis. She also credits the Children of Bellevue program and its highly responsive staffers for helping her to become a better parent with enhanced tools for communication.


Both siblings have found outlets for their creativity and, along with their mother, Lena, they are looking forward as they continue to learn and grow as individuals and as a family. Jordan, who has a passion for drawing with pen and ink, is currently enrolled in art school; Grace will graduate from high school soon and is planning on attending cosmetology school to develop her talents as a makeup artist and hair stylist. Lena wants to go back to school to find a new path, now that she and her kids are stronger and more independent.


Lena maintains a profound sense of gratitude to Children of Bellevue and Bellevue Hospital for the incomparable professionalism and life-saving measures accorded her family. With the desire to "give back," she takes this opportunity to address parents who are struggling to manage a child in crisis.


The impact of a family crisis is exhausting, a fact that Lena knows firsthand. "Find time to care for yourself. My daughter became dependent on me and I neglected my own care." She adds, "I had to stop being afraid to set boundaries with her, to be loving, but firm."


She highlights the importance of maintaining a support system and being involved with your child's treatment. "Keep asking questions!" she stresses. Rely on trusted family members and friends to "get you through the rough times."


Finally, Lena wants parents to know that "recovery" is a process; to be aware of setbacks, acknowledge progress and move forward.

Meet Rachel Surwit, LMSW
By Jennifer Davidson, Board Member

For teenagers struggling with psychological problems, Bellevue Hospital Center offers an invaluable refuge.   The Child and Adolescent Psychiatry Program is a bright, encouraging support center that helps instill a sense of hope within patients who might otherwise feel nothing but dread.  The success of the program reflects the quality of professionals who work there.   We sat down with one dedicated social worker, Rachel Surwit.   She is also a member of Children of Bellevue's junior board.  

Q: How long have you worked with Bellevue Hospital?
A: Since September 2014.

Q: What is your background?  
  A: I grew up in Tucson, Arizona, and then I went to Boston University, where  I majored in Journalism and minored in Psychology. I have always been passionate about writing, dancing, painting, creative crafts, reading and volunteer work. I moved to New York directly after college and after 2 years at Conde Nast, I decided I wanted to do something with my life that made me happy.  I knew it needed to be with kids, so I made the decision to go to NYU's grad school for social work.

Q: You currently work at 21 West with Tweens.  Tell us what you see day to day.
A: 21W serves ages 12-15 years-old.   The most  frequent diagnosis is depression. We see a lot of suicide attempts and self-injurious behavior.  Recently, we've gotten a lot of kids with academic stressors, which seem to coincide with Regent exams and finals. A lot of these patients go to very high pressure schools and are very high functioning. We also always have cases with histories of bullying and other social stressors. We even have a bullying group on the unit. We also see a lot of physical and sexual abuse as well as sexual identity and transgendered patients.

Q:Those are some weighty issues.   You used to work with younger kids in 21 South.   This must be a big change.

A: In 21 South, patients were ages 3-11.  Switching from engaging through play to engaging with talk has definitely been one of the biggest adjustments, and it has been fulfilling.   The developmental stage of the adolescent population allows for insight, and the patients are often able to identify and express their feelings. I enjoy how clinical the work is and I learn from the treatment team everyday.

Q:Give us a sense of a day in the life of a patient on 21W.
A: They wake up and the treatment team meets with them to
review yesterday and address goals for today. Each patient gets a
point sheet with their goals on it,  and they get points throughout the
day with positive reinforcement and concrete rewards.  Those rewards could be in the form of time listening to music on an ipod and going to the gym. The treatment team continues to meet with each patient individually throughout the day. Patients start their day  with Hello Goodbye Group, where they introduce new patients and give good wishes to patients leaving that day.  Then they go to school, which is located on the unit.  It is a department of education school, and patients are marked as present at school while they're staying on 21W.  Groups are dispersed throughout the day to activities such as yoga and movement therapy.   There is lots of art therapy.  There are groups on substance abuse and spirituality. I lead a visual journaling group, and patients keep their journals with them in their room. We also have a group called STAIR that focuses on concrete coping skills. This is one of the most important parts of their treatment as each patient creates a safety plan with the insight and skills they develop in this group.
Q:Where do your patients go after they leave Bellevue?
A: All of our patients get mental health services when they leave the
hospital but that looks different for each patient.    These kids have
so much potential if nurtured.  We make outpatient mental health referrals to clinics, hospitals and private providers that usually see patients for therapy once a week.  If needed, they also get psychiatry about once a month.  We also make referrals  to partial hospitalizations programs, day treatments and other therapeutic schools where patients can get treatment throughout the
school day. Then there are the out of home referrals to respite homes, community residences, state hospitals, residential treatment facilities and residential treatment centers.
Q:Do you work with parents too? 
A:Yes, a huge part of my job is communicating with the parents about how their child is doing, empathizing, setting up family meetings, and providing psychological education. We can't help a child if we don't help improve the environment they are going back into.

Q:You're a member of COB's junior board. What kinds of things do you hope to accomplish in that role?
A:I decided to join the junior board as an outlet for my ambition to
incite change and progress within Bellevue.  I proposed we raise funds for the inpatient units, and I described some changes the money could fund including sound proofing, child-size furniture, technology for rewards, and multi-sensory calming rooms. I loved seeing the rest of the junior board get excited about those ideas, and they unanimously agreed to raise money for inpatient child/adolescent psychiatry. I am now enjoying planning our fundraisers and hope to see the changes
A Visit from NYC's First Lady Chirlane McCray
On May 12th, 2015 Bellevue Hospital was pleased to welcome a visit from the First Lady of New York City, Chirlane McCray.  The visit was prompted by the First Lady's commitment to fixing what she refers to as "New York's Mental Health Crisis."
During the visit she lent her support to Bellevue's Partial Hospitalization Program.  "The launch of Bellevue's Children's Partial Hospitalization Program brings us one step closer to the inclusive and interconnected mental health system that New York families need," said First Lady Chirlane McCray. "This program is bridging the gap for young people who have recovered enough to leave the hospital, but who need far more treatment than outpatient programs can provide. It will also provide much-needed relief to their families."
Inside the Comfort Room
A safe haven for overwhelming emotions


The "Comfort Room" is a separate space designed as a calming room where a child can go during periods of emotional dysregulation or distress. It provides an innovative alternative to seclusion and restraint in the inpatient psychiatric setting and prevents crises from escalating for patients in need of a soothing environment.


The brain seeks information via the five senses of look, listen, smell, touch, and taste. The comfort room is furnished with items that are physically pleasing to the senses in order to relieve the stress level a child may be experiencing. Some common comfort room activities using the five sensory systems include:

  • Sight - watching a discovery lamp or images on a screen
  • Sound - listening to music
  • Smell - smelling lavender, vanilla or other scented therapeutic oils
  • Touch - squeezing a stress ball or being enveloped in a weighted blanket
  • Taste - eating salty, sweet or sour foods

The staff and the patients both love it! "The comfort room has allowed for our children to have a space where they can learn the skills necessary to calm themselves down and find healthy coping skills. It is a room not only where kids de-escalate but where kids feel comfortable expressing feelings of sadness, frustration and anger. It has become an integral component of our treatment in working with our high risk and acute patients," said Kate Zayko, LCSW.


Comfort Room in the Partial Hospitalization Program (formerly the Day Treatment Program) was opened in July of 2013 with the support of Mrs. Randolph H. Post and donations made in memory of her late husband, Randolph H. Post.   

Toast to the Children 2015
Every spring, friends and supporters of Children of Bellevue, Inc. come together for our largest benefit of the year-- Toast to the Children Famed chef and Children of Bellevue board member, Tom Colicchio of Craft Restaurants and Bravo's Top Chef, serves as host and emcee of this incredibly popular food and wine tasting event.  Proceeds from the event support vital programs and services for children and their families at Bellevue Hospital Center.


Held on April 22, 2015 this quintessential food and wine tasting was a sweeping success, raising more than $636,000!  In addition to child and adolescent psychiatry, proceeds will be used throughout the year to fund our innovative, life-changing programs and services for economically disadvantaged children in Bellevue Hospital Center.


Click here to see our generous sponsors!


Click for more information about our Toast 2015 honorees.


Click to see more pictures of the fabulous night!

In This Issue
Join us for our Spring Networking Reception.  

June 11, 2015   6 - 8PM

Children of Bellevue's 2015 expense budget includes more than $55,000 for Child and Adolescent Psychiatry.


Through your generous donations, our staff is able to provide our children and teens with:

  • movies/outings
  • picnics
  • birthday parties
  • holiday parties
  • books
  • art therapy supplies
  • miscellaneous needs brought to our attention by the program staff
Rewarded behavior is repeated behavior, so much of the budget is spent on "prizes" the patients can get when they cash in the points they have been awarded for reaching their behavioral goals. 
These include things like:
  • cosmetics and perfume
  • ear buds
  • iPod and Apple accessories
  • action figures
  • video games
  • books and magazines
  • toys, games and puzzles
  • and so much more!
Click to Make a Donation!
Children of Bellevue | (212) 562-4130 | |
 462 First Avenue ME-15
New York, NY 10016