'A never-ending battle': 2 systems take new approach to behavioral health

Mental health is a crisis for many communities.

Hospitals across the nation are seeing surges of patients with behavioral health needs in the emergency department, which requires additional care structures. Sentara Health, based in Norfolk, Va., redesigned the care process for behavioral health emergencies to create an in-house centralized telepsychiatry emergency response service to consult with the ED team.

"We included a health system employing therapists and psychiatrists, and partnered with a telepsychiatry vendor to quickly scale to our needs," said Ken Dunham, MD, executive director of medical operations and behavioral health at Sentara.

The physician-led behavioral health team focused on the ED reduced the behavioral health length of stay in the emergency department by around 13%, even though volume increased 18%.

"We predict the volume to continue to increase, so this is a never-ending battle," Dr. Dunham said. "We continue to work to innovate how we proactively assess, stabilize and disposition patients seeking behavioral healthcare in our facilities to include ED and inpatient alternatives by partnership and by our own build."

Melisa Adkins, BSN, RN, CEO of UofL Health-Mary & Elizabeth Hospital in Louisville, Ky., also built up behavioral health services last year. Her hospital established a 33-bed unit to provide medical and behavioral health services in one visit.

"This is extremely important since most behavioral health facilities provide care for behavioral issues only," Ms. Adkins said. "Acute medical issues are not accepted and have to be transferred to an acute care facility, which may not have the ability to treat medical and behavioral needs at the same time. This puts the patients and staff at risk."

Providing medical and behavioral health services together streamlines services for better outcomes and experiences when behavioral health patients also need medical care, Ms. Adkins said.

Copyright © 2024 Becker's Healthcare. All Rights Reserved. Privacy Policy. Cookie Policy. Linking and Reprinting Policy.


Featured Whitepapers

Featured Webinars