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Mercy Medical Center’s Emergency Department Implements ‘Project Calm’ to Help Children in Merced County Facing a Mental Health Crisis

Dignity Health - Mercy Medical Center (MMCM) and the Mercy Medical Center Foundation launch ‘Project Calm’ to help support pediatric patients in the hospital’s Emergency Department who may be experiencing a mental health crisis.

According to the CDC, in 2021, a national emergency for children’s mental health was declared by several pediatric health organizations, and the U.S. Surgeon General released an advisory on mental health among youths. These actions resulted from ongoing concerns about children’s mental health in the United States, which was exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. During March–October 2020, among all emergency department (ED) visits, the proportion of mental health-related visits increased by 24% among U.S. children aged 5–11 years and 31% among adolescents aged 12–17 years. 

The Mercy Medical Center Merced Foundation started the Project Calm pilot last May as a way to help the growing number of children receiving care in MMCM’s emergency room. When a child is admitted to the ED, they receive a bag filled with safe, age-appropriate toys, books, and tactile items to help relieve stress and anxiety. Additionally, The Starlight Foundation donated a Nintendo Switch gaming console and games.

Dr. Nicholas Stark, Emergency Department Physician Director of Operations, reflects that “The Emergency Department can be a chaotic and intimidating environment -- especially for children experiencing mental health crises. In the ED, patients often lose a sense of control over themselves and their environment, which can be particularly distressing for pediatric patients. Project Calm's work to increase access to comfort items and positive distractions, such as tactile items and iPads, helps give a sense of control and autonomy back to kids during some of their most challenging times.”

To make a donation to Project Calm, please contact the Mercy Medical Center Merced Foundation at 209.564.4200 or email [email protected]

Pictured below with the Nintendo Switch donation,  from left, Kassey Mosher (Chief Philanthropy Officer), Jatinder Mann, RN (ED Clinical Manager), Dale Johns (President), Maranda Hall, RN (ED Director).

Publish date: 

Tuesday, February 28, 2023

Media Contact

Lindsey Wine, Communications Manager

p: (209) 564-5077

[email protected]