News Article Details

Elliot Hospital invests $1.5m in psychiatric evaluation unit

New Hampshire Union Leader - 7/31/2018

July 31--Elliot Hospital invests $1.5m in psychiatric evaluation unit

By MICHAEL COUSINEAU

New Hampshire Union Leader

July 30. 2018 8:53PM

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Clinical Nurse Manager Heidi St. Hilaire and Associate Director of Emergency Medicine Dr. Matthew Dayno give a tour of Elliot Hospital's new psychiatric unit at the hospital's emergency department in Manchester on Monday. (DAVID LANE/UNION LEADER)

-- Elliot Hospital is spending $1.5 million to offer more beds and a better setting for emergency room patients in need of psychiatric care.

Elliot on Monday unveiled a new psychiatric evaluation program unit in the emergency room that will provide six beds -- two more than in the existing unit.

It opens Aug. 6.

Patients needing psychiatric care can wait from three days to three weeks to get a bed elsewhere inside Elliot Hospital or at the New Hampshire Hospital, the state's in-patient psychiatric facility in Concord.

On Monday, 12 patients needing treatment for such things as depression, schizophrenia and anxiety were waiting in the emergency room for psychiatric beds to become available.

"We have patients that have been here for six to seven hours that are voluntary (admissions) that are waiting for a bed, and we have a patient that's been here for 220 hours," said Dr. Matthew Dayno, Elliot's associate director of emergency medicine.

About 50 adults in emergency departments around the state were waiting for an acute psychiatric bed at New Hampshire Hospital as of Monday afternoon, according to Jake Leon, spokesman for the state Department of Health and Human Services.

Between January and March, the hospital had 154 beds available for long-term stays and the daily census averaged 153, he said. The median length of stay was 14 days, he said.

"There is a shortage of resources for people in New Hampshire with acute psychiatric needs, including in the number of psychiatric beds and in community-based services," Leon said.

"Elliot Hospital's new program is a positive development that will increase the availability of beds for those in crisis and help ensure greater continuity of care for people who are being served in community settings," he said.

The new Elliot unit includes a family meeting room, a shower in the group bathroom, a dedicated medication machine as well as televisions in every room.

"We spent a lot of time trying to make it brighter," said Heidi St. Hilaire, Elliot's manager of adult behavioral health. "We tried to design it more like a behavioral health unit, which tends to be more friendly."

No security issue sparked the new unit, according to hospital spokeswoman Susanna Fier.

"This is not a reaction to something like that," Fier said. "This is a demand that we have for behavioral health beds in the emergency department."

Elliot also has two other units that can handle 37 psychiatric patients, including 25 in a unit earmarked for those age 65 and older.

The new unit in the ER has "softer, safer" walls for patients than if built with sheetrock, St. Hilaire said.

"In the old days, they would have padded rooms," she said, but they don't use padded rooms, so there is "no stigma attached" to staying in such rooms, she said.

Doctors will treat people with both substance misuse and psychiatric issues, but "the primary thing we're treating is their mental health," St. Hilaire said.

The unit, which can treat people from age 7 to those in their 80s, is stocked with games and crayons.

And using crayons to draw isn't limited to kids.

"Adults, it's a great distraction activity to try to get their mind off of whatever's brought them in," St. Hilaire said.

mcousineau@unionleader.com

Business Health Manchester

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