Hospitals open mental health crisis units designed to effectively treat patients out of ER

More than ever, hospitals and health systems are focused on ensuring efficient operations amid workforce, patient flow and financial challenges. That is why some organizations are taking a new approach to treating patients experiencing a mental health crisis: "Empath units," Bloomberg reported Sept. 26.

Empath units are designed to treat mental health patients in a setting that is more serene and appropriate than an emergency department, thus freeing up emergency department beds, according to the report. Patients are stabilized in the units and sent home. The approach is based on a model called Empath (emergency psychiatric assessment, treatment, and healing), developed by Scott Zeller, assistant clinical professor of psychiatry at the University of California in Riverside and vice president of acute psychiatry at Vituity. The idea is that medically stable patients with issues like depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder and substance use problems can quickly be seen by a psychiatric specialist and start any necessary medication, according to Bloomberg. That way they are stabilized and don't need to automatically go to a psychiatric hospital.

One example highlighted in the report is the Empath unit at M Health Fairview Southdale Hospital in Edina, Minn., which opened last year and features open space and recliners for patients.

The Empath units come as many hospitals and health systems pivoted their mental health strategies during their pandemic to meet a growing need for mental health resources.

To read the full report, click here

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