Cook Children's Opens New Institute for Mind Health, Providing Comprehensive Care for Children with Neurological Disorders
Cook Children’s will soon open the doors to the new Jane and John Justin Institute for Mind Health. A ribbon-cutting ceremony took place on Thursday, Oct. 19, at the newly expanded Dodson Specialty Clinics building, located at 1500 Cooper St., in Fort Worth.
The Justin Institute will connect nine specialties under one roof, including Neurology, Neuropsychology, Neurosurgery, Pain Management, Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, Psychology, Psychiatry, Developmental Pediatrics and Developmental Psychology.
“The opening of the Justin Institute marks the culmination of years of hard work on behalf of a multi-disciplinary team of physicians and clinicians,” said Rick W. Merrill, President and CEO of Cook Children’s Health Care System. “Thanks to their outside-of-the-box thinking, nine specialties now reside under one roof, making the trip from one specialty appointment to another much easier on our patients. We know this connection, collaboration and convenience will make all the difference for our medically complex children and their families.”
At the Justin Institute, neurologists, neurosurgeons, psychiatrists, psychologists and experts in developmental and behavioral health will collaborate in one location. Walking across the hall to consult with one another on patient’s care will be the norm. For the patient, that translates to better, more comprehensive and connected care.
At the ribbon cutting ceremony on Thursday, M. Scott Perry, M.D., head of Neurosciences and director of the Jane and John Justin Institute for Mind Health at Cook Children's, said the Justin Institute “upholds the Promise of Cook Children's by providing easily accessible, well-coordinated, comprehensive evaluation and treatment guided by innovation, research, and a relentless dedication to improving patient outcomes and quality of life.”
“A majority of people with diseases of the nervous system have accompanying mental health or behavioral health disorders,” Dr. Perry said. “For example, about 50% of people with epilepsy will also have mental health disorders such as depression and anxiety.”
That may be because epilepsy, depression and anxiety share the same abnormal brain connections, or because the stress of living with the unpredictability of the disorder leads to mental health struggles. Either way, it’s important to connect the dots of care for those with overlapping mental, intellectual, neurological and developmental health needs.
“Kids get better when all aspects of their health and well-being are addressed, including their medical and mental health needs,” said Kristen Pyrc, M.D., Cook Children’s co-medical director of Psychiatry. “Many of our patients are seen by Neurology and Developmental Pediatrics and Developmental Psychology specialties, so we are hoping that being part of one institute will help increase collaboration amongst the disciplines and get patients to the appropriate resources more quickly.”
Cook Children's already has a robust Neurosciences Research Program. The Justin Institute will open the door for more cross-specialty studies, much like one currently underway examining the impact of epilepsy on the psychological health of children. Chrystal Cooper, Ph.D., a principal investigator with the Justin Institute, is leading that study.
“Dr. Cooper’s work is an example of the type of collaborative research that is possible across the divisions of the Justin Institute,” said Dr. Perry. “Our plan is to take the successful research program we have in neurosciences with a focus on epilepsy, cerebral palsy and movement and grow that team to include teams dedicated to autism, pain, stroke and more.”
The Justin Institute is also home to a new curated art collection, created by artists who either treat or live with nervous system disorders. With hopes of becoming the most Instagram-able waiting room in pediatric medicine, Dr. Perry hand-picked artists to create neurology-related pieces. Among the more than a dozen displays is a large three-piece mural painted by John Bramblitt, who is visually impaired and living with epilepsy. The story of resilience his painting tells will surely be an inspiration to everyone who sees it, as will all of the works of neuro-art throughout the Institute.
The following is from Dr. Perry's speech at the ribbon-cutting ceremony on Thursday, Oct. 19, 2023.
"That's our vision, that's the reason we brought 9 specialty groups into one clinical space - to provide families and patients access to more convenient care, more complete care, the absolute best care. To give their providers the workspace they need to do what is best for their patients, do it well, and do it differently. And that is exactly what we'll do - for the last several years, we've dissected every touchpoint of patient care from start to finish within the specialties represented to re-imagine the patient experience. We've examined the strengths and weaknesses of each service line to develop ways that we can all be better together.
Some changes will take time to manifest and some will occur near term. We're simplifying the referral process with a single referral which allows providers to refer to multiple specialties all at once. We've created an intake team to process these more complex cases - helping patients navigate referrals to multiple doctors and allowing single trips to the campus for care. We're eliminating duplication of services, digitizing and simplifying the extensive questionnaires parents have to fill out to get these services, and building multispecialty teams to attack the most challenging cases. To achieve the ultimate goal of ensuring every child under our care has access to appropriate neurological, developmental, and mental/behavioral health care, we need access and we all know many of our specialties are a rare breed. But the Cook Children's Health Care System has demonstrated their support - funding positions for 6 new psychiatrists, 3 developmental pediatricians and up to 30 psychologists in addition to an ever-growing faculty in our other specialties.
As we grow our clinical programs to meet demand, we also grow our research teams- expanding beyond epilepsy and movement disorders into stroke, autism, mental health, and other conditions where better treatments are badly needed. When I first got here 14 years ago, research was something many people did in their spare time - now Cook Children's plays a key role in the development of new therapies for rare epilepsies, pioneering new surgical techniques for treatment of dystonia, and has a team dedicated to neuroscience research with millions of dollars in NIH grants."