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Seattle providers bring seamless care to new behavioral unit

June 2, 2016
by Tom Valentino, Senior Editor
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A not-for-profit health system in Seattle has expanded its behavioral health services with the opening of a new 22-bed inpatient unit that will increase bed availability in the area. The Swedish Ballard facility, under the Swedish health system, has also teamed with not-for-profit Sound Mental Health to provide seamless care during inpatient stays and a community-based stabilization period after discharge.

The move by Swedish to open the new behavioral health unit comes as the number of state hospital beds across the nation reaches its lowest level on record. According to a study conducted by the Treatment Advocacy Center, the number of state hospital beds across the U.S. has dwindled to 37,559, which represents a 17% decrease since 2010 and a 96.5 drop from peak numbers in the mid-1950s.

Collaborating with the Washington State Hospital Association and other member hospitals, Swedish has attempted to address the issue with its new behavioral health unit at Ballard. The space was designed to treat comorbid medical and behavioral disorders, Arpan Waghray, Swedish Health Services system medical director for behavioral health, tells Behavioral Healthcare.

“When people have chronic medical illnesses, they tend to have co-occurring behavioral health conditions,” Waghray says. “When there is a combination of medical illness and behavioral health concern, we know that there are poor outcomes on both sides. We know there’s increased functional disability in our patients, and we know there is increased inappropriate utilization of healthcare resources.”

To that end, the model created by Swedish and Sound Mental Health aims to reduce costs by decreasing readmissions and as well as the length of stays for patients who do return, says Katrina Egner, a director at Sound Mental Health. The unit was designed to have a non-institutional feel, with natural colors and lighting that follows a circadian rhythm. Because the unit is located within Swedish Ballard, patients have access to medical ancillary care on site.

Sound Mental Health personnel at Swedish Ballard, a multi-disciplinary team that includes a prescriber, a registered nurse, licensed social workers and mental health professionals, helps patients identify and contact a full range of support in the community, going as far as to make phone calls and drive patients to doctor’s appointments.

Being able to meet patients in person as they enter Swedish Ballard is a critical part of the process for the Sound Mental Health team, says transition program manager Beth Anderson.

“That makes a significant difference in the success rate for the client and also their level of engagement once they leave the hospital,” Anderson says. “We are not taking over what’s already occurring when clients are in the hospital to begin with. We are supplementing the efforts of the hospital and working in conjunction.”

Tom Valentino is Senior Editor for Behavioral Healthcare.