Princeton House Behavioral Health in Cherry Hill Offers New Program for Children

May 18, 2009

CHERRY HILL, NJ -- Summer can be a tough time for children with behavioral and emotional difficulties -- and for their families.  The school day structure is gone, as are the school psychologists and child study teams that help children during the academic year.

With the expansion of children's services at the Cherry Hill site of Princeton House Behavioral Health parents in South Jersey now have a new option when their kids need help.

Princeton House Behavioral Health (PHBH) - Cherry Hill recently launched an intensive outpatient program for children who are experiencing psychiatric problems.  The program, which serves ages five through 12, provides children with three, half-day therapy sessions each week under the direction of a child and adolescent psychiatrist and master's level therapists.

"The bottom line is your child's diagnosis doesn't take a summer vacation," said M. Nazrul Islam, MD, a child and adolescent psychiatrist at PHBH-Cherry Hill.  "When you see warning signs, you need to get your child evaluated."

Warning signs can be any change in mood or behavior. A child may start showing signs of aggression, resulting in fights with siblings and parents. Or they may appear withdrawn and lose interest in play and other activities. Sleeping problems and even eating problems may also be a sign that something isn't right.

"Young children may not tell you that something is wrong. They'll tell you through their actions and behaviors," Dr. Islam added.

The number of young people and their families who are affected by mental, emotional and behavioral disorders is significant. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services estimates that as many as one in five children and adolescents may have an identifiable mental health disorder requiring treatment.

Many children are first referred to mental health services through their schools. During summer, the process could start with a visit to the child's pediatrician who will then make a referral for psychological testing and counseling, or it could start with a call to an intake specialist at PHBH-Cherry Hill who can answer many questions about how to access mental health services.

Children who come to PHBH-Cherry Hill first undergo a detailed psychiatric /psychosocial assessment resulting in a diagnosis and recommended treatment plan. Children referred into the intensive outpatient treatment program then participate in group therapy and other structured activities led by child and adolescent psychiatrists and therapists that encourage children to talk and play. This group approach improves children's ability to interact with peers and authority figures and gives them skills to succeed in school.

Parental involvement is also critical for success. Parents take part in a regular family meeting with psychiatrists and counselors to discuss their child's treatment, progress and any concerns. Parents are also encouraged to take part in weekly multi-family group meetings where they can talk and ask questions in a supportive environment with others who are dealing with the same challenges.

"Parents need to know that there's help available," said Donna Kiley, site director of PHBH-Cherry Hill. "You can't take a wait and see approach. The faster you can get a child into treatment, the more effective the treatment is."

For children requiring more a intensive treatment plan, PHBH-Cherry Hill also offers a partial hospital program that children attend five days a week, for six hours a day.

Families interested in learning more about the intensive outpatient program for children, or other services available from PHBH-Cherry Hill, can contact (856) 779-2300.

About Princeton House Behavioral Health
Princeton House Behavioral Health (PHBH), a unit of Princeton HealthCare System, is a leading provider of highly skilled and compassionate behavioral healthcare at the inpatient, partial hospital and intensive outpatient levels of care. We offer relief at times when life becomes challenged by mental illness, emotional difficulties or addiction. A multidisciplinary team of board certified psychiatrists and highly qualified professionals provide a high level of treatment and care for people with acute psychiatric illnesses, substance abuse problems, and co-occurring disorders. In addition to its main campus in Princeton, PHBH also has outpatient sites in Princeton, North Brunswick, Hamilton and Cherry Hill.