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Boys Town Child & Adolescent Psychiatric Inpatient Unit Celebrated Three Years of Changing Lives


Front entrance to IPU center

Thursday, January 12, 2023

​Since opening its doors in October 2019, the Boys Town Inpatient Psychiatric Unit​ has changed the lives of kids and families around the region. The 16-bed unit serves kids aged 5-17 who are in acute distress with a psychiatric diagnosis; length of stay is typically 5-7 days.

“It’s very short-term – our goal is to address the immediate [psychiatric] crisis, stabilize that crisis and get them hooked up with services that are going to support them at discharge,” said Dottie Heffernan, Director of Inpatient Psychiatric Services. “Outpatient appointments, sometimes day-treatment, sometimes [a residential treatment center] – it can be a variety of things.”

Since the unit opened in 2019, 1,267 patients have been admitted for care. Some patients have been admitted more than once, but according to Heffernan, that doesn’t equate failure: “It’s like treating someone with diabetes – they just need a tune-up.”

The unit is manned 24/7 by nearly 60 staff, including psychiatrists, nurses, psychiatric technicians, social workers, schoolteachers and child life specialists. There is also occasional collaboration with other departments at the hospital on an as-needed basis. The work, while crucial, can be challenging.

“We do a lot of fun things for our staff so we can make it lighter for them,” said Heffernan. “We do spirit weeks and monthly employee recognition so we can keep it supportive and light.”

The unit has received several 5-star ratings from patients and families throughout the years, a big accomplishment for such a new unit. Patients will often send cards or come back to the unit to say thank you to the staff.

“It’s been really a pleasure to see this unit open and grow into what it is today,” said Heffernan. “You start with something that’s brand new with brand new staff, and to see it grow into a solid unit where parents and families and patients think that we’ve done a good job is very rewarding.”

See Inside the Child & Adolescent Inpatient Psychiatric Unit