The Pritzker Center at UCSF Launched

UCSF has announced that a $25 million donation, one of the largest ever given to an American university for child and adolescent mental health services, will jump-start the creation of a comprehensive program dedicated to improving the emotional well-being of Bay Area youths, regardless of socioeconomic status.

In a single location, the Pritzker Center at UCSF, named for donors John and Lisa Pritzker, will expand the nationally recognized programs and services of San Francisco General Hospital Medical Center (SFGH) and the specialty clinics, training and research of UCSF's Langley Porter Psychiatric Institute (LPPI) into one cohesive program. By integrating mental health services from birth to young adulthood - across disciplines, and demographics and between research and clinical care - the center is designed to have a national and global impact on child and adolescent mental health knowledge, prevention, diagnosis and treatment.

Pritzker Center training programs will also address the national shortage of professionals, including those who are skilled in treating a multicultural, multilingual population. Today, there are fewer than 7,000 child and adolescent psychiatrists in the United States, with the need projected at 30,000, according to the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. The center will expand desperately needed child-specific research efforts as well.

The center is scheduled to open in early 2008, and will be housed in its own renovated, 36,000-square-foot building at 2130 3rd Street, near 18th and Tennessee streets, along the new Muni rail line in the Mission Bay neighborhood of San Francisco.

"We can have a positive impact on the well-being of our community if we treat mental illness in children. Half of all lifetime cases of mental illness begin by age 14. About one out of every five children and adolescents has a diagnosable mental disorder, and the vast majority do not receive any type of mental health treatment. San Francisco alone has about 6,000 vulnerable youth who are not getting the mental health care they need," says David Kessler, MD, dean of the UCSF School of Medicine and vice chancellor for medical affairs at UCSF.

"Many children actually have overlapping problems and multiple disorders, making proper diagnosis and treatment a complex puzzle that requires teamwork and collaboration among health care providers," says Miriam Martinez, PhD, associate clinical professor of psychiatry and pediatrics in the UCSF School of Medicine and director of the Division of Infant, Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at SFGH, who will be the executive director of the Pritzker Center at UCSF.

The center will combine clinical child mental and emotional health experts in virtually every subspecialty, including professionals specializing in the impact of domestic and community violence, sexual abuse and assault, and post-traumatic stress syndrome. "Being together under one roof in the new center will facilitate cooperation across disciplines, expedite diagnosis and treatment, and help prevent the all too common and tragic delays that can result in a fragmented system," Martinez adds. "We also have the opportunity to design the space for the Pritzker Center as a healing child- and adolescent-friendly environment in which patients and families can feel welcomed and safe while they are receiving care and support."

San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom also offers his enthusiastic support for a collaboration that builds upon the successful academic-public partnership between UCSF and the City and County of San Francisco. "The mental health programs of San Francisco General and LPPI are nationally recognized, and excel in service and training in their separate and unique areas of expertise," Newsom says. "Combining them in a single facility will unleash their potential to provide a full array of services to our city's youth. Enhanced training programs will prepare more providers to address the compelling needs of urban youth in San Francisco and beyond."

Tipper Gore, former President Clinton's mental health policy adviser and founder of Tennessee Voices for Children, a coalition to promote the development of services for youths with serious mental health problems, chairs the Pritzker Center's leadership council.

"With 80 percent of children who need mental health services going untreated, our youth are facing a mental health crisis of catastrophic proportions," says Gore. "By creating a model that emphasizes comprehensive care, eliminates barriers to access and trains caregivers in the latest practices, the Pritzker Center at UCSF will pave the way for other communities to begin to address the needs of our most vulnerable citizens - needs that must be met to ensure these children can become contributing members of society. I am delighted to work with a premier academic institution such as UCSF, whose basic and clinical research has the potential to fundamentally change and improve the field of children's mental health nationally."

Pritzker Center exterior illustration

Pritzker Center exterior. (300dpi version)

"Through years of volunteer involvement with the child trauma programs of San Francisco General Hospital, I have seen the demand for mental health services continue to skyrocket. Despite the clear need, there is a real lack of funds to care for these children," says Lisa Pritzker. "The surgeon general declared children's mental health as a national priority in a year 2000 report, but these programs are still underfunded, with the majority of our nation's mentally ill youth going without the care that could make the difference between growing into a healthy, successful adult or not."

John Pritzker adds, "With this gift to create the Pritzker Center, we hope to make that difference for Bay Area children, especially those who are underserved, at risk and in need of culturally sensitive approaches."

Images/Leddy Maytum Stacy Architects Photos/Elisabeth Fall