Health Headlines: New program to combat mental health crisis

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Published: Nov. 15, 2023 at 8:18 AM CST
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SALT LAKE CITY, Utah (Ivanhoe Newswire) – The mental health crisis is taking a toll on hospitals across the U.S., causing overcrowding in emergency departments, straining staff resources, and delaying crucial care for those in urgent need. In some communities, patients are held for months in the emergency room as they await psychiatric beds. Now, some hospitals are confronting this crisis head-on with an innovative solution.

It’s called a Behavioral Health Access Center, and it’s revolutionizing mental health care at Intermountain Health. Think of it as a specialized emergency department for mental health issues. They’re open 24/7, and staffed by a team of psychiatric nurses, mental health crisis counselors, and psychiatrists. And they offer a crucial 23-hour stabilization period to aid patients in crisis. And they do it at a third of the cost of an emergency department visit.

“If they’re not meeting a medical emergency, it diverts them to a location where they can be seen at the right place, at the right time, by the right type of provider,” explains Clint Thurgood, LCSW at Intermountain Health.

Hospitals like Intermountain Health are seeing remarkable results. The number of mental health crisis patients, system-wide, went from 18,000 in 2017 to 24,000 in 2020, with the behavioral health access center treating more than 80 percent of those patients.

Behavioral access centers have saved some hospitals 12 million dollars and reduced the rate of patients returning for mental health care.