Akron Children’s Beeghly Campus Marks 15 Years

BOARDMAN, Ohio – The services offered by the Akron Children’s Hospital Beeghly Campus in Boardman have grown substantially since it opened in 2008, and that growth is expected to continue.

The health care operation is marked its 15th anniversary Dec. 8.

Since its opening, the campus has become the premier care provider for infants, children, teens and young adults in the Mahoning Valley, says Paul Olivier, vice president of Akron Children’s Hospital Mahoning Valley.

“We’re the only organization in the Valley that’s dedicated to the health care needs of those populations and we continue to seek out what those needs are and try to meet those needs,” Olivier says.

Adds Dr. Elena Rossi, medical director for special projects, “Families want that care here and now. That has really been part of the big picture for Akron Children’s,” including quick care, urgent care and online services.

Many of the patients Akron Children’s treats who require the most care have special needs or underlying conditions, Rossi says. “So, they need somewhere locally to go.”

Akron Children’s Hospital established the Beeghly Campus in 2008, a year after purchasing Forum Health’s Beeghly Medical Park and following Forum’s closure of Tod Children’s Hospital in 2007.

Having a local hospital dedicated to the needs of children is “very important for that access to care for many of our families to have their needs met,” says Ryan Tekac, Mahoning County health commissioner.

Akron Children’s makes three promises: to treat every child as their own, to treat others how they would want to be treated, and to turn no child away.

“Those are three promises that I commend them on, especially being a father of two boys,” he says.

Olivier, who joined Akron Children’s in January 2021, oversees the operations in Mahoning, Trumbull and Columbiana counties. Those include pediatrics offices in Austintown, Boardman, East Liverpool, Howland, Liberty, Lisbon and Warren, as well as pediatrics units at St. Elizabeth Boardman Hospital, which has a neonatal intensive care unit, and St. Joseph Warren Hospital in Warren.

Across the three counties, Akron Children’s employs more than 400 full-time equivalent employees.

As it is throughout health care, employee retention is one of the biggest challenges for the Boardman campus, Rossi says.

“The mission to take care of youth hasn’t changed. What has expanded is the way we’ve done it,” Olivier says. “We’ve just continued to add services on the campus.”

New services include the addition of a sleep lab that opened in September, the only such facility in the Valley dedicated to kids, and the $31 million expansion of the emergency department, unveiled in April, to 23 beds from 17.

The campus has 24 inpatient pediatric beds and 18 in the special care nursery, according to Rossi.

“The offerings from the campus have exploded. We’ve grown significantly,” she says.

Telemedicine offerings expanded “almost as a requirement” because of the Covid-19 pandemic, especially related to behavioral health, which has grown as an area of concern in recent years, Olivier says. Part of that is because the stigma surrounding asking for help with mental health issues has declined in recent years.

“As a culture, we’ve come to realize that mental health and behavioral health is just as important as physical health. It’s just not as visible sometimes,” Oliver says.

During the pandemic, mental health issues sometimes went “a little bit underground or unseen” because kids weren’t in school for long stretches, he explains. The internet and social media also have played a role in the increase in mental health issues reported by youth.

“Behavioral mental health is one of the major challenges for children and their families,” Rossi says, and these issues represent a “significant number” of emergency department visits. In the emergency department, such issues present as uncontrollable behavior or anxiety that may or may not be related to an underlying condition, suicide attempts or ideation or problems at school.

In one year, the emergency department sees nearly 40,000 patients, according to Olivier. Expansion of the department has resulted in faster throughput of patients.

“Because we have more space, now we have more rooms, so they don’t have to be necessarily in the waiting room,” Olivier says. “We can get them into the back quicker.” Both patient and employee satisfaction are up, he adds.

Expansion of the emergency department was supported by Leonard Fisher, chairman of Handel’s Homemade Ice Cream, who contributed $1 million toward the project. Fisher’s philanthropy for children’s hospitals followed his son’s treatment at Tod Children’s Hospital for a potentially life-threatening condition.

After Tod closed and Akron Children’s established its local campus, Fisher began raising money for ACH through efforts such as Koins for Kids and boot drives. In addition to his personal donations, Fisher estimated Handel’s has raised more than $600,000 for the hospital.

“It’s near and dear to me, having something like that in the Valley. If it wasn’t here, I don’t know if Joshua would have made it,” he said.

With the exception of a pediatric intensive care unit, the Beeghly campus offers nearly all of the services and facilities present at the main campus in Akron, although not all services are offered every day there, Rossi says.

“But with our ability to use telehealth, we can communicate and connect our families with the specialists. Our inpatient NICU teams and hospital teams can connect with the specialists as well, both synchronously and asynchronously.

“We don’t have 24/7 surgery here and we don’t have a demand for that,” Rossi says. “But the specialties of neurology, rheumatology, endocrinology, nephrology, ophthalmology, optometry, they’ve all grown in the last 15 years.”

She anticipates outpatient treatment will continue to grow. Inpatient pediatrics is a smaller part of the treatments  now as the birth rate has decreased. She expects “a lot of growth” in behavioral health because of new inpatient and outpatient treatment modalities.

Short-term improvements on tap for the campus include renovating the surgical waiting area, increasing the size of the ophthalmology offices, and adding a medical staff lounge, which Beeghly now lacks, Olivier says.

Akron Children’s Hospital is in the process of completing a systemwide master plan that should be completed in January. Although Oliver doesn’t anticipate any major projects for the Beeghly campus in the new plan, there could be some tweaks or expansion of services.

“But we won’t have the capital for it until 2026 or 2027,” he says.

Pictured at top: Dr. Elena Rossi says behavioral mental health is a growing concern for children.