ATHENS — A new referral center for child mental health, training programs, and development of cutting-edge clinical technology will bring international best practices to the public sector in Greece, building system-wide capacity to meet needs on the ground.
An ambitious, new five-year project made possible by a landmark $15 million grant from the Stavros Niarchos Foundation (SNF) will harness the power of public-private partnership to bring field-leading expertise in child and adolescent mental health from the U.S.-based Child Mind Institute to support and empower young people across Greece. In collaboration with the Greek Ministry of Health, the comprehensive specialist care and referral system the program seeks to establish will revolutionize children’s access to the care they need. The new grant is part of SNF’s $500 million-plus Health Initiative, which aims to help ensure access to quality care for everyone in Greece by strengthening and upgrading the country’s health system.
The program’s three primary prongs together provide capacity and infrastructure for evidence-based prevention, assessment, and treatment of mental health challenges facing children, aiming to offer ground-up resources that strengthen the critical work done by mental health and child protection providers across Greece.
“Every child deserves access to professional, compassionate, and dignified health care—including for mental health—and this program represents a significant first step in the effort toward a new paradigm for children’s mental health in Greece,” said SNF Co-President Andreas Dracopoulos. “The deep expertise that the Child Mind Institute, a respected global leader in the field, will share and further develop with Greek colleagues could contribute to the foundation of a systematic, evidence-based approach to addressing real needs in the country, with a focus on younger generations.”
First, the program will offer rigorous training to better equip professionals working with children to identify and prevent behavioral health issues, as well as to help medical professionals treat them. In addition to training, ongoing clinical supervision will be available to mental health professionals, as will a consultation helpline for health care providers at the three new hospitals being built in Greece through SNF’s Health Initiative. Second, the program will establish a Referral Center for Child Mental Health to enhance national capacity for assessing and caring for acute and complex cases, both via direct clinical support to children and families and by developing networks of consultation and case co-work with hospitals and mental health providers throughout the country. Third, it will build out technological capacity for tele-mental health provision and specialized online tools for both families and clinicians.
SNF has been a steadfast supporter of the Child Mind Institute since its founding, partnering to address challenges to child mental health for over a decade. SNF’s grants helped establish the Institute’s cutting-edge research team, launch the Healthy Brain Network study, deliver trauma trainings to mental health professionals in Baltimore, and bring critical mental health and wellness services to school communities in New York City.
“Building on our rich history and partnership, we have an unparalleled opportunity to transform children’s mental health care in Greece,” said Child Mind Institute Founding President and Medical Director Dr. Harold Koplewicz. “Bringing together the visionary leadership of the Stavros Niarchos Foundation and the proven experience of the Child Mind Institute, we can create an international model for mental health care that will change the trajectory for children and adolescents struggling with their mental health in Greece and beyond.”
SNF believes firmly in the power of public-private collaboration, and following the same framework as the other programs in the SNF Health Initiative, this new project will be supported by the Greek Ministry of Health. The 2 April 2021 memorandum of understanding between the Ministry of Health and SNF expresses both parties’ commitment to ensuring that the program can be designed and customized for the needs of the national mental health system, maximum possible reach, and effective collaboration with institutional stakeholders. It also establishes that the program will be adopted and continued by the Greek state after the conclusion of the five-year SNF grant.
“This is a program of key importance for strengthening and further developing child mental health care all across Greece, even in the most remote areas—an investment for the future of our country,” said Deputy Minister of Health, Zoe Rapti. “We will make every possible effort to ensure the effective implementation and future sustainability of the program, which will serve as a legacy for our children and public health more broadly.”
Collaborating on the ground in Greece with SNF and the Child Mind Institute to co-develop and implement the project will be a new nonprofit entity headed by leading expert in child and adolescent mental health Professor Argyris Stringaris, who will be returning from the U.S. to Greece.
“Most mental health problems have their origins in childhood, and the impact of mental illness can be devastating for individuals affected, their families, and society as a whole. For example, depression is the leading cause of disability amongst teenagers and suicide is one of the most common reasons for teenage death,” said Dr. Stringaris. “Through this initiative and building on the strengths of existing services and the hard work of people on the ground, Greece has the opportunity of becoming a role model for scalable, top-quality, evidence-based provision of care. We will achieve this by co-developing new approaches with young people from all backgrounds, thus creating a diverse and inclusive environment in which mental health can flourish.”
In addition to substantial training programs and procurement of state-of-the-art equipment, the SNF Health Initiative includes the construction and outfitting of three new hospitals, all designed by renowned architect Renzo Piano, in Sparta, Komotini, and Thessaloniki. In the future, the Referral Center for Child Mental Health will also be integrated into the SNF University Pediatric Hospital of Thessaloniki when the hospital is completed and delivered to the Greek State in late 2025. Patients at the new hospitals in Sparta and Komotini will benefit from the resources established by the new child mental health program.