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Taking Mental Health Emergencies Out of the ER: EmPATH Unit Opens At CentraCare – St. Cloud Hospital

Published in Behavioral Health Services, Emergency Services, Mental Health, For the Health of It  Author: CentraCare

This week CentraCare – St. Cloud Hospital will be opening a new Emergency Psychiatric Assessment, Treatment and Healing Unit (EmPATH Unit). The EmPATH Unit will provide faster assessment of those dealing with mental health issues and do so in a unique and comforting setting.

Funding to construct this new unit was made available through The Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust with a $1.2 million grant. The EmPATH Unit will provide a model of care that transitions patients away from the sometimes-chaotic environment of the emergency department into a welcoming and calming setting where they can be assessed, observed and receive a tailored treatment plan during their time of crisis.

“We offer much gratitude to The Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust for their generous gift, as well as to the numerous others who have supported this new model of care for individuals presenting to the emergency room with mental health concerns,” said Larry Hook, MD, Physician Specialty Director for Hospital-Based Behavioral Health, who will lead the EmPATH team.

Funds also were raised by CentraCare Foundation to help with the construction of staff areas of the EmPATH unit.

On average, more than 10 patients a day seek mental health services through the St. Cloud Hospital Emergency Trauma Center, which equates to nearly 4,000 patients a year — making mental health emergencies the sixth most common reason for visiting the emergency department.

“This will be a brick and mortar space dedicated to people with mental health concerns, into which we can pull together a network of support people and resources to follow each patient back into the community,” said Kristin McNutt, Physician Assistant in Behavioral Health at CentraCare – St. Cloud Hospital.

The concept of the EmPATH unit is that it’s an open space. It doesn’t have locked doors and seclusion; it doesn’t have loud noises that could occur in an ER setting. It doesn’t have opportunities for conflict between providers and patients. It’s a living room-esque sort of waiting room setting.

“The EmPATH environment recognizes and emphasizes that our community, neighbors and family members coming to the hospital with a mental health concern deserve, and should expect, the same dignity in care as when they present for a medical condition,” said Dr. Hook. “With the opening of EmPATH, we are better able to provide members of our communities with the right treatment by the right people in the right setting at the right time and for the right amount of time.”

In other emergency departments across the country, it’s been demonstrated that up to 80 percent of patients who utilize the EmPATH Unit are able to become stabilized within 24 hours due to the timely and patient-centric care provided. In addition, unnecessary inpatient hospitalizations have been reduced and limited inpatient beds are preserved for those individuals requiring more intensive levels of treatment.

The goal for patients will be to help them resolve an acute crisis and helping them return to their lives in the community with the least disruption.