Mercy Health System officials will announce today the expansion of St. Charles Hospital in Oregon for a new Behavioral Health Institute, a move hailed by leaders as a way to provide more seamless care in a centralized location.
The $21 million facility not only will allow the health system to consolidate its mental health services under one roof but it also will increase treatment options, including alcohol and drug addiction services. Patients will not have to travel for care.
Dr. Imran Andrabi, Mercy chief operating officer, said the focus will be on a more comprehensive approach to helping patients who have mental illness.
“We need to move away from taking care of people in silos. Nobody else in town has the full range of capabilities that we are talking about. All the pieces out there are scattered and fragmented — what we don’t have is one place that has all the pieces together that work seamlessly for the patients,” Dr. Andrabi said.
When the facility opens early next year, Mercy officials plan to close the psychiatric floors at both St. Charles Hospital and St. Vincent Medical Center and move everything to the new institute. The number of beds in the Mercy system will move from 114 to about 90 beds.
“We think the 90 beds will accommodate the volume of patients we will be taking care of,” Dr. Andrabi said.
“Some of the people may need to be in acute care for a short time so that their symptoms can be modulated and then move into day treatment to stabilize the gains they are making to help them stay on the path to recovery,” said Sister Donna Markham, president of the Behavioral Health Institute for Catholic Health Partners, which oversees about 24 hospitals in Ohio and Kentucky, including Mercy Willard in Huron County, as well as St. Charles, St. Anne, and St. Vincent in Toledo.
Mercy Willard is a member of Mercy, a seven hospital system for a 20-county area in Northwest Ohio and Southeast Michigan. The health system's parent company is Cincinnati-based Catholic Health Partners.
Sister Markham said there are nine other behavioral institutes run by Catholic Health Partners, including facilities in Lima, Lorain, Youngstown, and Cincinnati.
“We are trying to expand our services to people who are struggling with emotional distress,” Sister Markham said.
The decision to open a Behavioral Health Institute has been well-received in the community.
“Their expansion makes sense for our community and we welcome the $21 million of investment in psychiatric services,” said Scott Sylak, executive director of the Lucas County Mental Health and Recovery Services Board.
The board oversees the government-funded mental health providers in Toledo including Unison Behavioral Health Group, Harbor Behavioral Healthcare, Rescue Mental Health Services, and the Zepf Center.
Mr. Sylak said he does not see this new institute as a competitor for those agencies.
“There will be additional capacity. They will have services that don’t currently exist in our community," he said. "I think it’s a positive step."
Mr. Sylak said the mental health community as a whole has been moving away from traditional treatment models and embracing a more holistic approach for many years. He said integration of both physical and behavioral health care is the new standard.
According to Mr. Sylak, nearly one in four people in the local community is touched by mental illness each year. The local community-based mental health system currently provides treatment to about 7,000 people each year.
Rescue is currently the first point of contact for many patients with mental illness in Lucas County, he said. The Rescue staff also works with local hospital emergency room departments when a patient shows up displaying symptoms. The rescue team helps screen the patients to see if they should be admitted to an inpatient mental health ward, Mr. Sylak said.
Mr. Sylak also said one of the pieces still missing in the local community is a dedicated psychiatric emergency department.
“Currently the ER doctors have competing interest with physical and health injuries that take precedent. We would like to see a facility where people in need of emergency psychiatric services could go to a designated place with a psychiatrist and psychiatric nurses to mitigate those issues immediately, and gain access to detoxification beds and the full array of services that they are talking about,“ Mr. Sylak said.
Mercy officials said they have not ruled out adding this type of service to the Behavioral Health Institute in the future. “We are still determining future expansion of services and will share with the community when decisions are finalized,” spokesman Sarah Bednarski said.
She said Mercy emergency rooms will continue to provide emergency mental health services to any patient on a 24-hour basis. If a physician determines a patient needs hospitalization, he or she will be transferred to the Behavioral Health Institute.
Leaders at Mercy will hold a news conference at 11 a.m. today, followed by a celebration of the new facility at 11:30 a.m., at St. Charles Hospital. Mercy staff and invited community members are expected to attend.
The official groundbreaking is dependent on the weather but Mercy hopes to move forward with construction as soon as possible.
“We are creating a state of the art environment of care. It will be beautiful and safe and built in a way to help the healing process. The design of the facility is based on research that tells us what colors to use and how to use the space to help people recover,” Sister Markham said.
Mercy officials said they have not determined how many staff members will be needed for the new facility or if they will have to hire additional staff.
By Marlene Harris-Taylor - The Blade, Toledo, Ohio (MCT)
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