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Partnership with NC DHHS will improve psychiatric care for children and adolescents.

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. – UNC Health celebrated the opening of UNC Hospitals Youth Behavioral Health, a 54-bed facility in Butner, N.C., that will provide acute hospital care for children and teens in psychiatric crisis. The project is a partnership between UNC Health and the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services. The facility expects to begin treating patients by the end of the month.

“I believe the mental health of our children and adolescents is the largest issue affecting our state’s future health,” said Dr. Wesley Burks, CEO of UNC Health. “This was a problem even before the pandemic, but has now reached dire levels. The opening of this facility will not solve this problem, but it’s an important step in the right direction, and the first step in our partnership with the State to greatly expand access to this care. We hope to mirror this partnership across North Carolina through multiple facilities across the state.”

UNC Hospitals Youth Behavioral Health is an inpatient hospital that will offer a first-of-its-kind model of mental health care for children and adolescents. Formerly the R.J. Blackley Alcohol and Drug Abuse Treatment Center, UNC Health partnered with the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services to convert it into the new facility.

“This innovative partnership with UNC Health allowed us to move faster and stand-up services urgently needed today for children and families in North Carolina,” said NCDHHS Secretary Kody H. Kinsley. “We are working to transform behavioral health care in our state at the same time making sure these immediate needs in our communities are met.”

A team of more than 200 care teammates from UNC Health and the UNC School of Medicine – including psychiatrists, pediatricians, and art and occupational therapists – will provide evidence-based treatment. Specialty therapy rooms, such as the music and art therapy spaces, provide opportunities for kids to learn coping and emotional regulation skills to further their recovery.

“This is a new model of care for young patients,” said Dr. Samantha Meltzer-Brody, Chair of the Department of Psychiatry in the UNC School of Medicine. “That’s important because this problem, which I refer to as a tsunami, isn’t going away. We see more youth struggling with behavioral health issues from a wide range of factors, including the pandemic and social media. With more than 200 care team members from UNC Health and the UNC School of Medicine – including psychiatrists and pediatricians, and art and occupational therapists – our team is equipped to provide evidence-based treatment for more than 800 patients a year.”

Children and adolescents face alarming mental health challenges and needs. Treating and resolving those needs is critical to the future health of our state. The rate of youth suicide in North Carolina has doubled in the last 10 years. As national leaders in psychiatric patient care, research and education – with the largest footprint in the state for youth psychiatry – UNC Health is well-suited to respond to this crucial need. The 54-bed facility will treat more than 800 children and teens a year, and prevent them from having to wait in crowded and chaotic hospital emergency departments to begin specialized psychiatric treatment.


About UNC Health
UNC Health is a state entity and an affiliated enterprise of the University of North Carolina system, comprised of 15 hospitals, 19 hospital campuses and more than 900 clinics along with the clinical patient care programs of the UNC School of Medicine (SOM).

It exists to improve the health and well-being of North Carolinians and others we serve and to further the teaching mission of the University of North Carolina SOM. UNC Health provided more than $141 million in Charity Care in fiscal year 2022, and more than $522 million over the last five years. Our hospitals have received numerous awards and recognition for quality care, patient safety and the overall patient experience. For more information, please visit