Dell Children’s, Hand to Hold Form Pediatric Partnership

Texas-based Dell Children’s Medical Center and has partnered with Hand to Hold to strengthen mental health support for families receiving home-based pediatric care.

The partnership has been a year in the making. The two organizations last December piloted an in-hospital support program for neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) families in Austin, Texas. Hand to Hold, a nonprofit, provides emotional and social support to families with seriously and terminally ill children during and after a NICU hospital stay, including education, community-based pediatric services and bereavement support.

Through the partnership, Hand to Hold and Dell Children’s aim to expand supportive home-based services for families following a NICU hospital stay.


Partnering with Hand to Hold reflects a growing recognition that families need more support following a hospital discharge, according to Dr. John Loyd, chief of neonatal care at Dell Children’s Medical Center.

“A critical part of the outcome for our babies is family well-being,” Loyd told local news.. “When we discharge a baby after having walked them through, at times, months and even sometimes over a year of care in an intensive care unit, Hand to Hold is there to be part of their support in the hospital and support once they go home.”

Austin-based Dell Children’s Medical Center, part of the Ascension Seton health system, provides pediatric primary, emergency and trauma care to 46 counties in Central Texas.


Through the new partnership, Hand to Hold staff members will connect families who receive NICU care at Dell Children’s Medical Center with bereavement and trauma support, among other services.

The NICU unit at Dell Children’s Medical Center currently has 32 patient beds and expects to add 24 more in the next year, according to Dr. Molly Pont, neonatal-perinatal medicine physician at the center.

NICU patients tend to have longer than average lengths of stay, which can often mean that availability of patient beds can be limited, as well as supportive services for families following a NICU stay, Pont told local news.

“We have medically fragile children and are under tremendous stress, which is why we have some that have very long, extended stays,” Pont said.

This is Hand to Hold’s second partnership with Ascension. They have a similar collaboration with Ascension Seton Medical Center Austin’s NICU program that launched in 2019.

Ascension has prioritized growth for its specialized children’s health care services in a five-year plan, according to President and CEO Andy Davis. Last May, the health system broke ground on a new pediatric hospital, also in Central Texas. The new Dell Children’s Medical Center North hospital will include 36 patient beds, four operating rooms and emergency and trauma service units.

Expanding support for families with critically and terminally ill newborns is part of Ascension’s aggressive growth plans.

“Our goal is to make it so that children and their families never need to leave Austin for their critical care needs, which has become increasingly important in the midst of the COVID pandemic,” Davis said in a statement.

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