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Groundbreaking for New Early Childhood Program at Clara’s House

Published in Media Releases

CentraCare – St. Cloud Hospital Clara’s House is thrilled to announce the forthcoming launch of its Early Childhood Partial Hospitalization Program (PHP), the first in the Midwest. Clara’s House has long been a beacon of hope for patients (ages 5-18) and families facing mental health challenges and this initiative addresses the critical need for mental health services for younger age groups (ages 3-5).

A groundbreaking for this expansion took place on Tuesday, May 28, with CentraCare leaders, planning committee members, and architect and construction partners HMA Architects and W Gohman Construction. The groundbreaking was held on the same day as the Clara’s House annual birthday celebration for Clara and Mae (Mae Ellingson-Skalicky, benefactor, and Clara’s daughter).

The fundraising campaign for this groundbreaking project has seen remarkable support, with a total of $3.1 million pledged from CentraCare Foundation funds and generous donors. The Foundation is actively working to secure additional funding to ensure the successful establishment of an early childhood playground, equipped with safe and age-appropriate facilities for children aged 3-5.

Recent studies highlight a concerning rise in mental health issues among children and adolescents, with anxiety and depression rates soaring by nearly 30% in recent years, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

“The importance of early intervention cannot be overstated,” said Barbara Skodje-Mack, EdD, LMFT, Director of Child & Adolescent Outpatient Behavioral Health. “Ninety percent of core brain development occurs within the first five years of life. It’s during this critical window that early intervention can make a profound difference in a child’s lifelong wellbeing."

The Clara’s House Early Childhood PHP will provide an opportunity to intervene early, by providing evidence-based and trauma-informed treatment interventions, which are particularly important during the early childhood years. The program will also enhance responsive caregiver-child relationships and effective parenting skills during the child’s earliest years of life which is crucial for promoting foundational child development and wellbeing.

Construction on the expansion started May 29 with a completion date of early 2025. The launch of the Early Childhood PHP represents a pivotal step forward in addressing the mental health crisis affecting our youth.

Learn more about the Clara’s House expansion.