Northwest Health announced Tuesday plans to invest $3.97 million into an expansion of its mental health unit in Springdale. The expansion will include 14 adult behavioral health beds for acute care and four medical-psychiatric beds, giving the hospital a total of 47 beds in this unit.
“The need for behavioral health services is tremendous,” said Tom Sledge, chief operating officer at Northwest Health Medical Center in Springdale. “The expansion of our behavioral health unit will help more people get access to high-quality, specialized care.”
He said having psychiatric services available in an acute care setting means health professionals are able to address the mental health and, if needed, the medical needs of patients.
The prevalence of mental illness has created a shortage across the nation of inpatient psychiatric beds and intensive outpatient resources, leaving many patients nowhere to turn but emergency departments. About 25% of all U.S. adults have a mental illness, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). The CDC also notes that mental illness is associated with increased occurrence of chronic diseases such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, obesity, asthma, epilepsy, and cancer.
The Springdale hospital said it is the only acute care hospital offering adult behavioral health inpatient services in Northwest Arkansas.
“Many patients arrive in our emergency department in crisis. If there are no psychiatric beds available they must wait in the emergency department to be transferred for psychiatric services, leading to a delay in specialized care for them,” said Dr. Danelle Richards, emergency department medical director at Northwest Health. “This expansion will help provide access to needed behavioral health services and allow general emergency services to be focused where they are needed in the ER.”
The expanded unit in Springdale will provide patients with a combination of medical assessment, psychiatric evaluation, group and activity therapies as well as education and support to both the patients themselves and the families who care for them.
Hospital officials said this expansion will create about 25 new clinical and other jobs at the Springdale location. Construction is expected to be completed in early 2018 with completed later next year.