Dr. Joseph Gold Is a Man on a Mission

September 29, 2020

When Joseph Gold, MD, arrived at McLean Hospital in 1979 as a fellow in child psychiatry, the child and adolescent program was in its infancy. Founded in 1973 by Gold’s mentor, Silvio “Skip” Onesti, MD, the Hall-Mercer Center for Children and Adolescents practiced under the standards of the era: compassionate care but long lengths of stay, limited diagnostic concepts, few treatment options, and frequent use of restraints.

Fast forward almost 20 years—after designing a wide range of clinical services for kids in Massachusetts, Gold returned to McLean, where he found limited programs for youth because of the hospital’s financial challenges at the time. Together with a skilled team, he set about the task of rejuvenating those services.

Caring for Kids and Teens

Today, Gold is McLean’s chief medical officer (CMO) and chief of the Nancy and Richard Simches Division of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. In this latter role, he oversees a broad array of programs that includes a collaboration with Franciscan Children’s, outpatient services at Cambridge’s Sancta Maria Nursing Facility, the 3East continuum for adolescents and young adults with borderline personality disorder, the Belmont and Middleborough adolescent residential and day programs, the Arlington School and Pathways Academy, and the Klarman Eating Disorders Center.

“When the decision was made to invest in children and adolescent services, Cynthia Kaplan and I were among a handful of leaders in child mental health programs locally who were recruited to McLean,” said Gold.

Dr. Joseph Gold
Dr. Joseph Gold

Two people in particular, Gary Gottlieb, MD, and Bruce M. Cohen, MD, PhD, psychiatrists and former presidents of Mass General Brigham (MGB) and McLean respectively, drove the decision to invest in services for youth.

“Gary Gottlieb and Bruce Cohen made a decision to heavily invest in child services here at McLean, and Gary led the way in growing child services across MGB in order to meet the dramatically increasing need, recognizing that the majority of adult mental health problems begin in childhood.”

McLean’s child and adolescent services today focus on “catching kids in the act of doing the right thing so that you can praise them and raise their level of hope,” Gold said, noting that new evidence-based therapies have transformed the field. These include dialectical behavior therapy, cognitive behavior therapy, acceptance and commitment therapy, and exposure and response prevention therapy.

And with an eye toward sharpening the focus on catching problems early, Gold also proudly points to his team’s role in the creation of the Massachusetts Child Psychiatry Access Program, a set of regional children’s behavioral health consultation teams designed to help primary care pediatricians screen for, triage, and treat developmental, psychiatric, and substance use problems.

Supporting First Responders

As McLean’s CMO, Gold also presided over the creation of the LEADER (Law Enforcement, Active Duty, Emergency Responder) program, initially designed to respond to the impact that the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing had on the professionals who tended to the injured.

“That quickly grew into a recognition that first responders and uniformed personnel, including police, firefighters, and EMTs, had a long-standing unmet need for mental health and substance misuse services,” he explained.

Today, LEADER treats about 250 inpatients annually and offers step-down residential and outpatient programs. This includes specialized care that addresses the “two-hatter phenomenon,” first responders who have prior military experience.

“From a public health and public safety point of view, there is nothing more important than the well-being of our first responders,” he said.

Gold is equally passionate about the enduring positive effects of McLean’s College Mental Health Program, which helps 600 students per year navigate inpatient stays, recover from acute illness, and, for most, return to academics. Hundreds more benefit from McLean’s residential programs annually.

And with many of the child programs, including Pathways Academy, the 3East Girls Intensive and Step-Down Programs, and an expanded 3East Boys Intensive Program, more growth and improvement lie ahead.

Thanking Our Donors

Many of Dr. Gold’s efforts on behalf of children and adolescents have been funded thanks to philanthropic support, including the establishment of the Nancy and Richard Simches Division of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry in 2011. In 2019, Dr. Gold became the inaugural incumbent of the Edward Peabody Lawrence Endowed Chair in Psychiatry at McLean Hospital. Funding for the chair comes from Mass General Brigham, the McLean Board of Trustees, and individual donors.

Media Requests

Journalist or member of the media? We are available 24/7 for media requests.