Thu. Jul 25th, 2024

(ORANGE, Calif., June 12, 2024) – A $7 million gift to Children’s Hospital of Orange County (CHOC) will expand school-based access to health and wellness resources, and grow the enterprise’s pediatric mental health system of care.

The generosity of Swenson Family Foundation will help expand CHOC’s WellSpace initiative into Orange County elementary schools, including K-8 campuses. A partnership between CHOC and the Orange County Department of Education, WellSpaces are dedicated environments currently at 40 schools. WellSpaces feature biophilic and trauma-informed design where students can unwind and connect with health and wellness resources, including school-based staff with foundational knowledge in mental health.

In addition to adding multiple WellSpaces to schools in coming years, the gift will establish dozens of WellCorners in elementary and K-8 schools. These smaller scale, classroom-based spaces will help younger children learn coping mechanisms and practice social-emotional learning skills right inside their usual learning environment. CHOC mental health clinicians will work with schools to help them maximize the effectiveness of the WellSpaces and WellCorners.

This WellSpace expansion and WellCorner launch will allow CHOC to partner with educators in selecting tools and resources that work well for younger students. Additionally, the growth will allow for the integration of other CHOC support services – such as Help Me Grow – into WellSpaces and WellCorners to aid parents in promoting their children’s healthy development.

“We are so grateful to the Swenson Family Foundation for their incredible generosity,” said Dr. Michael Weiss, CHOC’s vice president of population health. “This significant gift will allow us to provide even greater support to children where they are and when they need it. The no. 1 place where children are is at schools, and we are proud to partner with educators throughout the county to help meet the whole needs of children.”

Additionally, through the generosity of the Swenson Family Foundation, CHOC will also establish a mental health navigation system that will support children who are showing risk of suicidal ideation while being screened in CHOC’s primary and specialty care clinics.

The system will help youth and families better understand which services might best suit their needs and direct them to an appropriate level of care, whether that be at CHOC or elsewhere in the community.
Ensuring that mental healthcare is seamlessly integrated into all other aspects of pediatric healthcare, the new navigation system will provide a pediatric psychologist to perform screenings for children in need of services. This will allow CHOC to serve families even faster and direct them to the right level of care.
Additionally, a resource specialist will support families and connect them to outpatient services, if warranted. A social worker will also be available to screen children and provide guidance to families. The mental health system can be challenging to navigate and these additional resources can help children get the care they need as quickly and easily as possible.

“Suicide is the second-leading cause of death for 10 to 19 year olds, so being able to screen and determine the appropriate level of treatment for these kids is critical,” said Dr. Heather Huszti, CHOC’s chief psychologist. “We are so grateful to the Swenson Family Foundation’s most generous gift, which is truly a lifesaving investment in the children of our community.”

The Swenson Family Foundation’s gift deepens a treasured relationship between the Orange County-based organization and CHOC that began nearly 30 years ago with a $5.4 million gift that established the Swenson Family Foundation Family Assistance Endowment Fund. The endowment’s emergency funds ensure CHOC patients and their families have access to critical resources such as food vouchers, gas cards and bus passes. Without this support, many families would not be able to utilize CHOC’s comprehensive care and lifesaving treatments.

“We’ve been so impressed by CHOC’s initial efforts to address the mental health of kids at the high school level in Orange County,” said Susan Swenson, president of the Swenson Family Foundation. “Our goal with this gift is to address the mental wellness needs of younger children so their situations do not go unaddressed or escalate, especially to a crisis point. We’re certain that healthier ‘whole’ children – physically and mentally – will be the result of these vital efforts.”

She adds, “In time, entire school campuses will become ‘well spaces’ as teachers and administrators become more aware and adopt what they and the students learn through this unique partnership with CHOC. Schools will be enriched and lives will be saved.”

About CHOC:

CHOC, a pediatric healthcare system based in Orange County, California, is committed to being a leading destination for children’s health by providing exceptional and innovative care. Our growing community includes two state-of-the-art hospitals in Orange and Mission Viejo and a regional network of primary and specialty care clinics serving children and families in four counties. CHOC offers several clinical programs of excellence providing the highest levels of care for the most serious pediatric illnesses and injuries, both physical and mental. Our research and innovation institutes are focused on translating real patient needs into real-world treatments so every child can live the healthiest and happiest life possible. To learn more, visit

author avatar
The New Santa Ana blog has been covering news, events and politics in Santa Ana since 2009.

By Editor

The New Santa Ana blog has been covering news, events and politics in Santa Ana since 2009.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Verified by MonsterInsights