Touchette Hospital doubles capacity for patients with mental illness in Metro East shuffle
As officials at Touchette Regional Hospital cut a bright red ribbon on Tuesday for the opening of a new behavioral health center, another Metro East hospital made preparations to close its own division for the same type of care.
Though hospital representatives said the shuffle will centralize services and improve patient care, advocates argue that patients still have a hard time finding a spare bed during a mental health emergency.
"I usually hear a story like that at least once or twice a week,” said Jessica Gruneich, the executive director for the Southwest Illinois chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness. “It’s repeated in support groups, education classes. Caregivers, parents, adult children say, 'We had to go to the ER and wait a day or two before my fill-in-the-blank family member could get a bed on a unit.'"
Inpatient care for mental health includes intervention and stabilization for people whose illnesses like schizophrenia, depression and post-traumatic stress reach a crisis point. The new 30-bed center at Touchette’s location in Centreville will care for adults as inpatients and can provide outpatient services for both adults and teens.
Concurrently, St. Elizabeth’s Hospital in Belleville will stop accepting new behavioral health patients for its 35-bed ward and will start referring patients to Touchette. St. Elizabeth’s, which is owned by the Hospital Sisters Health System, helped guarantee the $10 million loan to build the center in Centreville.
James Dover, division president for HSHS, disputed the idea that there would be fewer available beds for behavioral health in the Metro East after the shuffle.
“Bed count doesn’t matter anymore; it’s an integrated program,” Dover said. “Our average daily census ran around nine patients a day.”
The director of Touchette’s newly-opened Behavioral Health Services, Desarie Holmes, said the center will double the space for mental health patients at the hospital, which formerly had only 12 beds and often ran at capacity.
“People need to be able to seek proper treatment, proper care,” Holmes said. “They have an opportunity and a place that’s safe, secure, and they can work out and learn the tools they need to live healthy and productive lives."
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