May 1st, 2016

Spring Harbor Hospital to re-open 12 bed unit

Maine’s Spring Harbor Hospital will be able to reopen a previously closed unit of 12 psychiatric beds by the end of September thanks to a good chunk of funding from the state.

The hospital in Westbrook, Maine, is set to receive $700,000 from the state to open what was once a children’s unit in the hopes of alleviating lengthy emergency department wait times.

The Maine Department of Health and Human Services “is supporting a funding request made by Spring Harbor Hospital to reopen 12 adult psychiatric treatment beds in Westbrook,” said a February news release from the state. Money from the state to open the new unit includes $325,000 in start-up costs, said Amy Stafford, a spokeswoman for Spring Harbor Hospital.

This funding will allow the hospital to function at full capacity once the new unit opens, offering 100 beds to treat those dealing with mental illnesses or co-occurring disorders, said Mary Jane Krebs, president of Spring Harbor Hospital. “Currently, the hospital accommodates an average of 79 adult and adolescent patients daily. Through this funding support, Spring Harbor expects to accommodate on average 10 additional adult patients daily in the new unit.”

The hospital expects to be able to serve about 400 additional adult psychiatric patients each year in the new unit, Stafford said.

The new unit will help decrease the length of time an adult lingers in a hospital emergency department waiting for a bed. “The re-opening of our 12-bed unit will provide access to timely treatment of acute mental health needs,” Krebs said.

“Having access to more adult psychiatric beds will decrease lengths of stay in emergency departments and provide the necessary inpatient care to smoothly transition people to the right level of care in the community settings.”

Wait times in emergency departments for those needing psychiatric hospitalization continues to grow. “An average length of stay at the Maine Medical Center emergency department rose from 12 hours in 2012 to 21 hours in 2015,” Krebs said. She said a recent study suggests that one in eight patients in emergency departments have mental health or substance abuse conditions as a primary diagnosis.

“There have been far too many cases of individuals in need of inpatient psychiatric services spending countless days in hospital emergency rooms waiting for available psychiatric beds,” said DHHS Commissioner Mary Mayhew in the release. “For some, it could mean many days of waiting. While the state has long played a significant role in funding services at the two private psychiatric hospitals, Spring Harbor and Acadia Hospital in Bangor, the [Gov. Paul] LePage Administration is committed to providing care to our state’s most vulnerable as quickly as possible.”

The Maine Department of Health and Human Services did not return phone or emails requests for comment.

This expansion will support the mental health system within the State of Maine, said the release. “As a member of Maine Behavioral Healthcare, Spring Harbor will be able to connect with other mental health providers, hospitals, and primary care sites to admit patients in a timely manner with quick access to appropriate treatment,” the release stated.

The unit will open in phases, Krebs said. Six beds will open at the end of May. The other six beds will gradually open through the end of September, when the unit should be at full capacity.

“We estimate hiring an additional 33 full-time employees including medical staff, nurses, psychiatric technicians, social workers, care coordinators, and other support services for the unit,” Krebs said.

The beds were once a children’s unit called 1 West. It closed in 2009 because of declining demand for child and adolescent beds, Krebs said.

By Rivkela Brodsky

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