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CentraCare Receives Helmsley Grant for New Way to Treat Patients with Emergency Mental Health Needs

Published in Mental Health, Media Releases Author: CentraCare

CentraCare recently received a $1.2 million grant to implement an innovative care model for adult patients experiencing emergency mental health needs. Construction has already begun on the Emergency Psychiatric Assessment, Treatment and Healing Unit (EmPATH Unit) at CentraCare – St. Cloud Hospital. 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. 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’re excited to help bring the EmPATH philosophy to Central Minnesota as Helmsley continues to improve healthcare in rural areas across the Upper Midwest," said Walter Panzirer, a Trustee with the Helmsley Charitable Trust. "This option for quickly getting patients the behavioral help they need is revolutionary compared to the ER option used in most hospital settings."

"With the opening of the EMPATH unit, we will be able to offer a space designed specifically to allow room for patients to receive care with dignity, and a space for the mental health team to learn from each patient the particular needs and challenges he or she will face when they leave EmPATH," Kristin McNutt, Physician Assistant in Behavioral Health at CentraCare – St. Cloud Hospital. "This will be 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."

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.

"The ability to implement this unique model of care comes at a time when we are seeing more and more patients seeking crisis-level help for mental health issues," said Merryssa Wood, Nurse Practitioner in Behavioral Health at CentraCare – St. Cloud Hospital. "The EmPATH Unit will make it possible for us to provide more focused care during a time of crisis and offer support and treatment that can sometimes be limited in traditional emergency department settings due to the focus on physical trauma or other medical emergencies."

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.

Construction on the EmPATH Unit at St. Cloud Hospital began in December and is expected to be completed by early summer.

About the Helmsley Charitable Trust

The Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust aspires to improve lives by supporting exceptional efforts in the U.S. and around the world in health and select place-based initiatives. Since beginning active grantmaking in 2008, Helmsley has committed nearly $3 billion dollars for a wide range of charitable purposes. Helmsley’s Rural Healthcare Program funds innovative projects that use information technologies to connect rural patients to emergency medical care, bring the latest medical therapies to patients in remote areas, and provide state-of-the-art training for rural hospitals and EMS personnel. To date, this program has awarded more than $500 million to organizations and initiatives in the upper Midwest states of North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Wyoming, Minnesota, Iowa, and Montana. For more information, visit