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Kari Goldstein, R.N., and her sister, Shayna Goldstein (right). Shayna sewed face masks for each of the doctors and nurses at Kerr’s Children’s Crisis Psychiatric Care Facility. She is also donating 5% of the proceeds from her Etsy shop to Albertina Kerr.

As the Nurse Manager for Kerr’s Children’s Mental Health Services, Kari Goldstein, R.N., knows families are struggling. “Everybody coming to us is in such great need,” she says. “The disruption to their peer support group has been really hard on kids, especially young ones who feel a sense of security from a daily, predictable routine.”

The familiar landscape of day-to-day activities has changed at lightning speed. For many children and teens, this new normal is surreal. Schools are closed. Their parents are home 24/7. There is constant chatter about social distancing, sheltering-in-place, and flattening the curve. And, all contact with their outside world is now virtual.

However, for some kids this new reality is unbearable. They no longer have contact with their peer support group. There’s nonstop tension in their home. They don’t have the outside time they desperately need to let off steam. And, the daily intake of COVID-19 news is exasperating their symptoms of anxiety, depression, or other mental illness.

Amid the pandemic, kids are still entering Kerr’s mental health program, receiving treatment, and safely being discharged to Kerr’s outpatient services. “I think that, in itself, really speaks to how dedicated our staff are,” Goldstein says. “We haven’t had anyone say, ‘I’m too scared to come into work, too scared to serve these clients.’ Everyone is rising to the occasion.”

Kerr ‘s Children’s Crisis Psychiatric Facility offers short-term, safe and secure residential placement for kids 5-17 years old who are experiencing a mental health crisis. And, Kerr’s outpatient care, now accessible through a Telemedicine platform, strives to alleviate the individual and family struggles associated with mental health symptoms.

According to Goldstein, to keep clients and staff safe, Kerr is providing a lot of education around health, hygiene, and COVID-19 precautions. “We tell the kids this is why you’re seeing tape on the floor six feet apart,” she notes. “It’s why we keep moving chairs and why we don’t want more than two people sitting at a small table together.”

One of the more challenging preventive measures the team has had to implement is refraining from the use of therapeutic touch—side hugs and high fives. “It’s especially challenging for our littles,” Goldstein says. “So, we’re focusing on our verbal communication and silly things like air high fives.”

Goldstein wants families to know they are not alone. Kerr is here to support them. And, they don’t need to take their child to an Emergency Department to seek help—any qualified outpatient mental health professional can create a referral to Kerr’s services. “These professionals are making sound decisions through Telemedicine,” she says.

“The most magical part of this whole experience is our direct patient care hasn’t changed,” Goldstein says, “Everyone’s intent on staying and giving the best possible care. We’re being physically distant while still supporting kids and families emotionally.”

Click to support Albertina Kerr’s COVID-19 Response Fund