Mental healthcare initiatives come to ERs' rescue

Reduced stigma may jump-start demand for services

As more mentally ill patients seek care in emergency rooms, hospitals across the country are taking steps to shift the care burden to other settings.

One innovative approach is Oregon Health & Science University's Unity Center for Behavioral Health in Portland. The center, a collaborative effort of the university, Kaiser Permanente, Adventist Health and Legacy Health, is a 24-hour resource for crisis resolution and mental health support, according to the Huffington Post.

The facility also features design elements aimed at reducing anxiety, such as reclining chairs rather than traditional hospital beds and a more calming architectural layout.

Meanwhile, Brighton, Massachusetts' Franciscan Hospital for Children, facing as many as 200 calls a month for patients looking for a spot in its 16-bed Community Based Acute Treatment (CBAT) behavioral health program, has nearly doubled the unit's capacity, and plans further expansions as well, according to the Boston Business Journal. Eventually, the hospital aims to add beds to its 32-bed "crisis unit" for pediatric patients with mental health issues, the publication reported.

What seems like a rise in demand may in fact be increased recognition of the importance of behavioral health, CBAT Program Manager Kate May told the publication. "There probably has always been a need, but mental health is becoming less stigmatized and people are more accepting of help now," she said

And in Texas, Midland Memorial Hospital has taken the offensive in addressing mental health in its community, launching a large-scale assessment of the community's available mental health resources and capabilities with a projected March completion date, CEO Russell Myers wrote for the Midland Reporter-Telegram.

Midland Memorial, too, hopes to combat the stigma surrounding patients who seek mental healthcare. In the meantime, the hospital is working to improve its ability to quickly transfer patients from the emergency room to appropriate mental healthcare providers, as well as work to reduce the shortage of such providers in the state.

To learn more:
- read the Huffington Post article
- check out the Business Journal article
- here's the Reporter-Telegram piece

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