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Mental health Portsmouth Regional Hospital adds psych beds Answering call for additional help

Portsmouth Herald - 3/19/2017

PORTSMOUTH — In response to the crucial need for additional services for patients with mental health illnesses, the administration of Portsmouth Regional Hospital has made a 50 percent increase in the number of involuntary beds available for mental health patients.

The additional beds became available Friday, March 10.

“Portsmouth Regional Hospital has always been committed to providing access to inpatient mental health and given the current crisis in the state of New Hampshire, we felt compelled to step up for the benefit of the Seacoast and greater New Hampshire” said Dean Carucci, Portsmouth Regional Hospital CEO.

Dr. Matt Davis, medical director of Behavioral Health Services, and Justin Looser, director of the Behavioral Health Services, both said the move is necessary because the wait for beds now is unacceptable.

Davis said the involuntary beds in the behavioral health unit are for patients who are in an acute mental health crisis.

“They might be patients experiencing an increase in the frequency or severity of their symptoms,” Davis said. “There may be a concern that they could potentially be a danger to themselves or to others. They may be agitated, aggressive or even violent. They may be so impaired that a hospital setting is the only safe place for them to be. Having these people wait for a bed is a real travesty, with potentially terrible outcomes. Right now, some are having to wait days, even weeks to be admitted.”

“While New Hampshire hospital sees the highest number of involuntary admissions, the wait for beds remains a travesty in our state,” Looser said. “We had a patient who was in the emergency department for two weeks, waiting for a bed to open up. We felt we needed to try to answer this need.”

Looser said a lot of patients who are involuntary admissions are underinsured or not insured. He said the move has no financial benefit to the hospital. It is simply the right thing to do.

“I am proud to work for an organization willing to make this type of decision,” said Looser.

There are 30 beds in the PRH Behavioral Health Unit The number of beds for involuntary admissions will rise from eight to 12. Looser said they plan to revisit the situation in 30 days to see if they need to do more.

Both Looser and Davis recognize that this change is not the complete answer to the lack of services for these patients. Still, it is an improvement, a place to start.

Davis said New Hampshire Hospital has 168 beds, for adults and children. He said there are a smattering of beds in some other hospitals.

“It’s not enough,” Davis said. “There are about 26 emergency departments in the state. Patients are brought in by police, by family, or they will self-present. A determination can be made in the emergency department but then there is a question of whether there is the physical space to admit them.”

A person who enters an emergency department for an injury, like a broken hip, does not need to worry they will be not be treated.

“We aren’t going to tell them they might need to wait one or two weeks,” said Davis. “we will not say have some pain medication but we can’t treat you yet. In the meantime, their hip is not healing properly. A mental health diagnosis is just as important. This is an illness and we can’t keep telling people they need to wait for treatment.”

Davis said it is a testament to PRH that it sees the need and is willing to take steps to meet it.

“The Department of Health and Human Services has said they need help,” Davis said. “We are trying to provide it by adding the beds.”

“The behavioral health staff works really hard to answer this call,” Looser said. “We are really trying to be the boots on the ground. The nurses, social workers and techs are very devoted to their professions. They are all willing to take on this extra load because they all understand the real need in the state.”

For information about Portsmouth’s services and physicians, visit www.portsmouthhospital.com.

 
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