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The increasing incidence of serious crimes committed by minors and of child abuse has prompted Nagoya University Hospital to launch a department of child psychiatry this month to improve mental health care for youths, hospital sources said.

The department will be the first in the nation’s 42 state-run university hospitals, the Japanese Society for Child and Adolescent Psychiatry said.

The child psychiatry department is expected to be staffed by one professor and two assistant professors. It will be independent from the regular psychiatric department.

The department is expected to form a network with schools and child consultation centers to provide advice, the sources said.

Although the Medical Service Law does not allow hospitals to advertise child psychiatry services, the Nagoya hospital decided to establish a separate child psychology department in response to consumer needs.

About 250 people aged 16 or younger consulted the hospital on mental problems in 1998.

Observers welcomed the move, saying the current number of psychiatrists specializing in children and facilities in Japan is inadequate.

Kosuke Yamazaki, director of the Society for Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, said he hopes other hospitals will follow the Nagoya institution’s lead.

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