“No one wants their child to need our services,” said Gretchen Herzog Sullivan ’01, Supervisor in the Bellevue Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Health of Seattle Children’s Hospital. Since graduation, she has been helping children and families meet the critical needs associated with an inpatient hospitalization in the psychiatric unit at Children’s Hospital in Seattle and its outpatient clinic in Bellevue.
Sullivan came to Seattle University to experience all that college has to offer. Literature, History, and Theology were in her sights, but registering for the wrong course put a new focus on her studies.
“As a sophomore, I signed up for a class taught by [Associate Dean and Psychology Professor] Dr. La Voy, and after the first day, after listening to her talking and describing what she was going to teach, I was hooked,” she said, “but it was a senior class, and I knew I wasn’t ready.”
“I was drawn to psychology because I love people, and I love understanding what drives us and what brings us together as a community,” she said. “Psychology took everything I was learning everywhere else and put it together in a nice package. It was a perfect fit.”
During an informational interview at Children’s Hospital in Seattle, Sullivan was offered a job as a pediatric mental health specialist in the inpatient psychiatric unit. She jumped at the chance to join a team of psychiatrists, mental health therapists, educators, social workers, and nurses working in the 20-bed inpatient unit. The children, as young as 3 and as old as 19, come to the hospital with the full range of mental illness, including autism, psychosis, eating disorders, attention deficit disorders, and behavioral disorders. The team focuses on acute crisis intervention and then puts into place services to assist the children and their families in an outpatient setting.
“The goal is to get treatment started and move through the crisis so they can go back home,” she said. “We discuss goals with the family, what stabilization looks like, and how we going to achieve that together.”
Sullivan worked closely with families to ensure a smooth transition from inpatient to outpatient. If a teen has anorexia, for example, Sullivan might put into place an outpatient team that includes a dietitian and therapist specializing in eating disorders. Is an outpatient psychiatrist needed? Can the family get to the clinic? Are there problems with insurance? These are some of the concerns that Sullivan resolved so that when the child went home, the family had resources in place to help the child experience the health and wellness to be successful.
Sullivan recently moved into a supervisory position at Children’s outpatient behavioral clinic in Bellevue. In this outpatient setting, she is focusing on leadership and the operations of the clinic in order to meet the needs of the patients and families in need. She is also in the executive master program in health administration at the University of Washington and serves on the board of Guided Pathways, a nonprofit agency run by families that provides peer support for families coping with children who have mental health issues developmental disabilities, or chemical dependency.
Sullivan credits her time at Seattle University for enabling her to be in the position of helping people in crisis.
“I was exposed to the concept of social justice, what my role in the community could be, where I could bring goodness to the world, not just what was in it for me but what I could do,” she said. “It prepared me for the work I do now. I love being able to see kids on their journey toward health and wellness.”
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