Sagamore Children’s Psychiatric Center, which opened in 1969, treats seriously emotionally disturbed children of Nassau and Suffolk Counties, who range in age from 9 through 17 and require a structured inpatient program. Located in Dix Hills, Sagamore is operated by New York State’s Office of Mental Health (OMH) and is accredited by The Joint Commission.
The children admitted to Sagamore suffer from severe psychiatric disorders, including deep depression, debilitating anxiety, and psychosis. Often their lives have been scarred by trauma such as sexual molestation, physical abuse, bullying, death of parents, abandonment, neglect, and intense family conflicts. With histories of suicide attempts, self-mutilation, physically explosive outbursts, social isolation, substance abuse, and runaway, these children require intensive and comprehensive treatment. The inpatient teams of psychiatrists, pediatricians, nurses, psychologists, social workers, teachers, recreation therapists, and child care workers ensure an integrated approach to providing a therapeutic environment.
Sagamore satisfies the needs of Long Island communities by treating: (1) youngsters from psychiatric emergency rooms who are insurance-poor and who are turned away from community hospitals; (2) youngsters transferred from community hospitals because they need more treatment than a short-term acute care hospital can provide; and (3) youngsters referred from Family Court whose behaviors are suspected to be the result of mental illness. Upon admission to Sagamore, each youngster receives comprehensive medical, psychiatric, psychological, and educational evaluations. Results are used to guide treatment, both before and after discharge. It should be noted that on 7/10/13, the day of OMH’s announcement to close Sagamore, nearly 20 children were on a wait-list to be admitted. Furthermore, Sagamore’s wait-list has ranged from 15 to 20 since OMH reduced the hospital’s capacity from 69 to 54 in May of 2012.
Children’s length of stay varies, depending upon treatment needs. Over the past 10 years, and with the exception of those children remanded by the Court for a 2-week evaluation, the length of stay has consistently averaged 3 – 4 months. Moreover, stays at Sagamore are frequently shorter than at comparable hospitals for long-term treatment. It is important to note that, once stabilized, children earn day and full-weekend passes to enhance family and community connections.
Family participation in treatment is strongly encouraged and in many cases is a key factor in a successful course of inpatient care. Families are able to: (1) visit with children both on weekends and after school on weekdays; (2) participate in family therapy sessions; (3) attend “Family Night,” which is held approximately once monthly and offers interactive social activities; and (4) attend annual holiday parties. Visits from siblings, aunts, uncles, and grandparents are encouraged in order to help youngsters stay connected and feel hopeful. With OMH’s planned closure of Sagamore, Nassau and Suffolk children who require inpatient hospitalization would be admitted to facilities in Queens, the Bronx, or farther. As a result of the great distance, family involvement would decrease significantly, thereby negatively influencing treatment progress.
Sagamore’s educational program operates 5 days weekly from 9:15AM through 3:30PM. Children earn credit towards their high school diploma, as grades are recognized by all Nassau and Suffolk school districts. Also, Sagamore offers children the opportunity to sit for New York State Regents Exams on site. At community hospitals, youngsters are either provided educational services for only 2 to 3 hours daily, or not at all. Children at community hospitals cannot earn credit to satisfy their home district’s requirements.
Sagamore provides a therapeutic recreation program that promotes physical, social, and creative growth. Children partake in exercise groups, relaxation groups, music and drama clubs, and arts and crafts clubs. Once stabilized, children participate in daily supervised outdoor activities and attend educational trips to the Intrepid Museum and Sony Wonder Museum, as well as recreational trips to Adventureland, Splish Splash, movie theaters, parks, go-kart racing, etc.