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Irsay gift expands behavioral health program

The Jim Irsay family, owners of the Indianapolis Colts, today announced a partnership with Riley Children’s Health to support the Indiana Behavioral Health Access Program for Youth, or “Be Happy,” which aims to improve access to mental health services for Indiana’s children and adolescents.

The Irsays will donate $650,000 to Riley Children’s Foundation as a part of Kicking the Stigma, the Irsays’ initiative to raise awareness about mental health disorders and remove the shame and stigma too often associated with these illnesses.

Through Be Happy, any Indiana healthcare provider who works with children or teens can call a free phone line during business hours to consult with one of Riley’s board-certified child and adolescent psychiatrists for help with diagnostic clarification, medication management, treatment planning or other child mental health questions.

With the Irsays’ gift, Riley – in partnership with the Indiana University School of Medicine Department of Psychiatry – will expand the program to offer both psychiatric assessments and therapy for children and teens for whom there are no resources available in their community. Therapy will be available in-person or virtually, allowing the service to be provided to youth statewide.

According to physicians and staff at Riley, the need is great:

• Each week, as many as 500 families call Riley seeking outpatient mental health care for a child. During that same time, the outpatient team may only have capacity to take on a handful of new patients.

• In 2020, a record 766 children and teenagers came to the Riley Emergency Department and required evaluation from the Riley Behavioral Health Access Center. In 2021, that number jumped to more than 1,260.

• Indiana is in the bottom 20 percent of states in availability of child psychiatrists and the top half of states in terms of youth suicide rates.

“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 and interim co-chair of psychiatry at IU School of Medicine. “The expansion of this program will provide a lifeline to children and families facing behavioral health emergencies. We are incredibly grateful to the Irsays and the Colts for championing this cause.”

“Mental health is a challenge for so many, but it’s become more and more of an issue for young people across our state and country,” said Kalen Jackson, Colts Vice Chair & Owner. “The Be Happy program is a win-win in that children benefit from quick access to Riley expertise and don’t have to wait to be seen or travel for care.”

The Irsays launched Kicking the Stigma in late 2020 with several national PSAs, produced in conjunction with the band R.E.M. and featuring Irsay, Colts vice chair and owner Kalen Jackson and Colts All-Pro linebacker Darius Leonard. Another national PSA also aired this fall featuring musician Snoop Dogg, NFL Hall of Famers Peyton Manning and Tony Dungy, actors Rob Lowe and Mike Epps, and others.

During Mental Health Awareness Month in May 2021, the Colts hosted a weeklong virtual fundraiser, which raised $4.5 million for Kicking the Stigma Action Grants to fund nonprofits and institutions that provide treatment or raise awareness about mental health.

Through the action grants, as well as personal donations by the Irsays, the family has committed more than $10 million to local and national organizations since 2020 to expand treatment and research in Indiana and beyond.