Questions answered about behavioral health unit

Outside view of Madison Memorial Hospital Photo credit: Grace Wride

On June 17, psychiatrists Jim McCoy and James Morris held an online webinar, where they answered questions about the upcoming behavioral health unit coming to Madison Memorial Hospital.

Those who attended the online event had to register ahead of time through an online forum where they were asked to pose questions about the behavioral health unit.

According to the Madison Memorial Hospital web page, this behavioral health unit is currently in construction and will be completed near the end of August.

Medical professionals and mental health experts from around Rexburg were in attendance.

James Morrison and Jim McCoy took turns answering important questions regarding the specifics of this unit currently in construction.

What is the behavioral health unit?

The Madison Memorial Hospital Mental Health Unit is a 12-bed crisis stabilizing center. There will be four individual rooms and four double rooms within the center. However, depending on the needs of the patient, some of the double rooms can be converted to single rooms.

Patients admitted to the unit will have been recommended by outpatient care, given an evaluation through the social workers at the hospital and, depending on the evaluation, will get admitted to the hospital or placed somewhere else for care.

“It’s very important for us that we practice more of an individual approach,” Morris said. “So every patient that comes to the unit will have an individual treatment plan where they will be assigned a medical provider, also, a social worker who helps with collaborating with outpatient providers, family, or other people who might have information to help us care for the patient.”

What type of care will be offered to the patients?

Patients in the behavioral health unit can receive both individual and group therapy.

“Everyone will have the opportunity to attend these group therapies throughout the day, which will consist of different therapy as well as recreational therapy, art therapy and individual therapy with a licensed therapist,” Morris said.

Within the behavioral health unit, patients won’t have access to their cell phones, but there will be a media room where they can check email and contact their families if their care providers feel that they are in a behaviorally safe space to use media.

Attached to the side of the unit will be a recreational space where patients can spend time outside to walk around and get some fresh air, which is important for mental health.

How will patients get referred to the unit?

“Usually what happens is patients get sent to the ER if their provider or family members are worried about them, and as they go to the ER, they’ll see a crisis worker that will talk to family, talk to the patient and assess the needs of the patient, then come and do an in-patient that way,” McCoy said.

In-patient means that the patients are treated directly in the hospital.

Who will the behavioral health unit serve?

The behavioral unit will serve adults from the age of 18 to 60 years old. Morris explained that they cannot accept patients too far after the 60-year range because then they get into the geriatrics, and there may be neurological issues. Older patients are sent to a geriatric facility.

The behavioral unit will have a huge emphasis on suicide care and prevention.

Due to the needs of the Rexburg community, a large part of the population in the unit will be people with suicidal ideations or intent. These patients will have an individualized plan to work through these issues, but if the suicidal thoughts return, they will be put on medication.

How will medication be administered?

The medication administered through the behavioral health unit will be administered in-patient.

“The nice thing about an inpatient unit is that we can follow up with them every single day, and so we can increase medication doses more rapidly and those types of things,” McCoy said. “So, definitely there is a focus on suicide and helping them plan how to access resources after discharge as well.”

What kind of follow-up care will be given after patients are released?

After patients are released, the unit will rely on outpatient care, such as local therapy centers and social workers, to continue treatment as needed.

After discharge, the behavioral health unit will conduct close follow-ups. If needed, additional care will be coordinated for patients after discharge from the hospital.

What is the main goal of the behavioral health unit?

The hope for the behavioral health unit is to have more room in the community to house mental health patients. If the unit becomes full, social workers can place patients at other units, whether in the emergency room or additional behavioral units, such as Idaho Falls.

“I think it’s gonna be great for Southeast Idaho to have an extra in-patient unit just to provide more bed availability for the people and patients here in Idaho,” McCoy said.

What impact will this unit have on the community?

When addressing the community, Morris and McCoy acknowledged that a majority of the Rexburg population are students. Their goal with these students is to provide support and resources to help them transition from their home lives to school lives.

“I think there’s going to be a very important thing of providing care for these students that are coming into our community from other communities throughout the country and not having a lot of support,” Morris said. “We want to plug them into the resources they need both as an in-patient, and then coordinating the care after they discharge.”

This behavioral health unit is coming about as a community effort. Law enforcement, therapy centers, social workers and other mental health experts from around the community are promoting this behavioral health unit to raise awareness.

“It takes a group effort to feel part of a group,” Morris said. “I want it to be a comfortable place for anybody to come to, and hopefully, we can provide that atmosphere.”