Breaking News
More () »

'Gift to the community': Children's Minnesota celebrates new in-patient mental health unit

Set to open Nov. 29, the unit includes beds for parents or guardians to spend the night with their child.

ST PAUL, Minn. — For the first time, Greg and Marissa Frankenfield are seeing what's become of their foundation's $1 million donation to Children's Minnesota.

The facility's new mental health unit, set to open Nov. 29, is expected to serve around 1,000 kids and teens a year. The unit is a first — not just for the hospital — but the entire east metro.

"I sold my company about 20 months ago, which allowed us to fund the foundation," Greg Frankenfield said. "It was a great opportunity for us."

"We've gone through our own mental health crisis in our family so we knew how it felt to kind of wander around, looking for a place for our children," Marissa Frankenfield added.

The Frankenfields have four children, and while they're all grown up now, families with kids and teens today are facing similar challenges in finding appropriate mental health care. In fact, Children's Minnesota President and CEO Marc Gorelick says the need for inpatient care has grown over the years, with unprecedented need in recent years.

"According to the Minnesota Department of Health, for young people in Minnesota ages 10-24, suicide is now the second leading cause of death," Gorelick said at a press conference Thursday. 

In 2021, Children's alone saw 1,800 young patients for mental health crises. It was a 30-percent increase from the previous year, the hospital reports.

Soon, instead of visiting the emergency department, patients will be able to stay at the new unit. It's one of few places nationwide to include beds for a parent or guardian to spend the night with their child, chief of general pediatrics, Dr. Gigi Chawla, said.

"This unit is absolutely specifically designed for safety but it also is designed to have a therapeutic environment for healing," Chawla said.

Lobby chairs are intentionally heavy and padded. Some of the rooms have padded doors with a thick magnetic strip, allowing them to easily be removed and snap back into place. Patients will also be able to change the lighting color in some rooms, empowering them to have some control of their environment. 

"These people have thought through everything," Greg Frankenfield said. "It's a great holiday gift to the community."

Children's received a total $7 million from donors with a goal of reaching $10 million by the end of next year.

Next spring, the hospital plans to open two outdoor spaces for the mental health unit.

Watch more local news:

Watch the latest local news from the Twin Cities in our YouTube playlist:

Before You Leave, Check This Out