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Irsay family donates $650K to Riley children's mental health program

Posted at 10:46 AM, Jan 04, 2022

INDIANAPOLIS — The Irsay family on Tuesday announced a donation to expand access to mental health services for Indiana children and teenagers.

The Irsays will donate $650,000 to the Riley Children’s Foundation as part of the family’s Kicking the Stigma initiative. The donation will help expand the hospital’s Indiana Behavioral Health Access Program for Youth (Be Happy).

Colts vice chair and owner Kalen Jackson noted when announcing the gift that Indiana is in the bottom 20% of states in availability of child psychiatrists and in the top half of states in youth suicide.

“I have been saddened by statistics that I've seen over the years and the fact that they keep getting worse, and I don't want the world that I live in to look this way for my girls, and so this is a gift that really hits home in particular for me,” Colts vice chair and owner Kalen Jackson said.

Be Happy allows any Indiana health care provider who works with children or teens to call a free phone line during business hours to talk to a Riley board-certified child and adolescent psychiatrist for help with diagnostic clarification, medication management, treatment planning or other child mental health questions, according to Riley Children’s Health.

The gift will help expand the program to offer psychiatric assessments and therapy for children and teens. Therapy will be available in-person or virtually.

Upwards of 500 families contact Riley Children’s Health each week seeking outpatient mental health care for a child.

In 2021, the number of children and teenagers who visited the Riley emergency department and required evaluation from the Riley Behavioral Health Access Center increased to 1,260 from the previous record set in 2020 of 766.

“Indiana children and adolescents are experiencing unprecedented levels of anxiety, depression and other mental health conditions, and the pandemic has pushed our state into a crisis situation,” said Dr. Leslie Hulvershorn, director of child and adolescent psychiatry at Riley Children’s Health.

The Irsays launched Kicking the Stigma in late 2020 and have committed more than $10 million to local and national mental health organizations.