Emergency rooms have become the safety net for families not only in need of medical care, but also mental health care.
With donations from local foundations and charities, Akron Children’s Hospital today opens a new unit in its emergency department dedicated to patients presenting with mental and behavioral health issues.
The space, including five patient rooms, a nurses' station, a waiting room and family respite area, have all been designed to calm patients and will be staffed by pediatric emergency department physicians and pediatric psychiatric-trained medical and nursing personnel.
"We are focusing on the needs of these patients and families in everything we do," said nursing director Helen Raub, who has been leading the project. "We have dimmer lights, have eliminated unnecessary wiring and equipment, and have reduced the risk of flight. Whether it is a child with autism or a teen in crisis, we will have the environment and the trained staff to de-escalate behavior, and get the patient stabilized and assessed."
According to Tim Lee, MD, a pediatric emergency room physician at Akron Children’s, the September opening of the unit is well timed to coincide with one of his department’s busiest season.
"We do see a lot more kids dealing with stress, depression and other mental and behavioral health issues at the start of the school year," said Dr. Lee. "There is much more pressure on kids socially and academically. This will be a safe, secure place for them during a time of crisis."
According to Dr. Lee, the number of patients being seen in Akron Children’s emergency department for mental and behavioral issues has doubled since 2008. Sometimes, during a time of crisis, these patients present a risk to themselves or others.
Longer waits are common for families of adolescents and teens struggling with mental health issues due to a limited number of inpatient psychiatric hospital beds, and waiting lists for referrals for outpatient mental health and counseling programs.
The staff from Akron Children"s Psychiatric Intake Response Center (PIRC) will also be located in the new space. PIRC operates round the clock mental health assessments by phone and may direct the family to Akron Children’s emergency department for further evaluation. The PIRC phone number is 330-543-7472 locally and toll-free at 1-866-443-7472.
The foundations and charities funding this project are the Margaret Clark Morgan Foundation, the Lehner Family Foundation, the Timken Foundation of Canton, the Women's Board of Akron Children’s Hospital and the Northern Ohio Golf Charities.
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