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Riley Children’s Foundation announces $8M commitment to improve access to youth mental health care

Riley Children’s Foundation today announced an $8 million commitment from Sarah and John Lechleiter to address the youth mental health crisis by making mental and behavioral health services available through pediatric and primary care offices.

Riley Children’s Health is initially embedding mental health services in Riley and IU Health pediatric and primary care offices, reaching 70,000 to 80,000 children and adolescents in diverse urban, suburban and rural communities across Indiana. Providing these services in familiar locations close to home will reach children and families early and before they are in crisis.

“Our children are our future. We want all Indiana children to have the healthiest and most fulfilling lives possible, both physically and mentally,” the Lechleiters said. “The increase in mental health conditions among our youth is one of the most pressing challenges we face as a state, and we are pleased to be part of supporting meaningful solutions that improve access to care in the near term. We hope that this gift also spotlights the urgent need for additional mental health resources and encourages others to consider supporting this cause.”

The Indiana Division of Mental Health and Addiction granted $7.5 million in 2022 toward the embedded mental health program, known as integrated care, with the provision that Riley match that amount. The Lechleiters’ gift completes the match and creates a $2 million endowment to sustain the program into the future. The Indianapolis Colts also donated $500,000 through its Kicking the Stigma initiative, and the Indiana District of Kiwanis has pledged to raise $1 million as part of its Reach Out Indiana Campaign.

To date, the integrated care program has already been rolled out in eight pediatric and primary care locations, with the remaining sites expected to go live over the next year. Importantly, it addresses the mental health workforce shortage by providing intensive training to interventionists with bachelor’s degrees who work under the supervision of more advanced providers. The team is trained to deliver evidence-based interventions for common conditions such as anxiety, depression and conduct disorders, including ADHD, with more acute and complex cases referred to the Riley Children’s outpatient psychiatry program.

The integrated care program also includes virtual evidence-based therapy groups to support children, teenagers and parents/guardians from throughout the state.

“We are grateful to Sarah and John Lechleiter for their leadership and advocacy in pediatric and adolescent behavioral health,” said Ryan Nagy, M.D., interim president of Riley Children’s Health. “This crisis is too immense and complex for any one group to solve alone. This is the perfect example of how

we can put innovative solutions in place when government, philanthropists, private organizations and health systems work together.”

Suicide is the second leading cause of death among Indiana adolescents, and rates are growing faster here than in at least 40 states. Recognizing the scope of the crisis, Riley Children’s convened more than 220 leaders throughout Indiana to develop a statewide pediatric and adolescent behavioral health strategic plan. Early intervention is a cornerstone of the strategy.

“Approximately half of Indiana children with major depression do not receive treatment, and half of adults with chronic mental health conditions first had symptoms before the age of 14,” said Leslie Hulvershorn, M.D., director of child and adolescent psychiatry at Riley Children’s Health and chair of the Department of Psychiatry at Indiana University School of Medicine. “Through this gift, we are confident the integrated care approach will ensure vital support to primary care providers who are on the front lines of the crisis, and will deliver effective, evidence-based therapies to children and teens who otherwise may be unable to access care.”

“For too long, mental and behavioral health have been an afterthought. As a result, our children are suffering, both in Indiana and throughout the country,” said Elizabeth A. Elkas, Riley Children’s Foundation President and CEO. “Through their generosity, the Lechleiters are advancing the best possible care for these kids and their families.”

About the Donors

John Lechleiter is the retired chairman, president and CEO of Eli Lilly and Company and currently serves as co-chair of the Indiana Mental Health Roundtable. Sarah Lechleiter has served on numerous not-for-profit boards in Indianapolis. Together with their family, they direct much of their philanthropic giving through their White Oak Foundation.

Read an executive summary of the statewide pediatric and adolescent behavioral health strategic plan: