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Northwest Hospital Opens New and Expanded Behavioral Health Unit

Posted Feb 14 2013 6:00am

As a category of medical conditions, mental health disorders are very prevalent. More than one in four adults experiences a diagnosable mental health disorder in a given year, according to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH). The NIMH also estimates that one in 17 adults suffers from a serious mental illness that requires hospitalization.

Accordingly, a growing population like the one we face in Maryland increases the need for hospitals to have adequate space in their psychiatric units for patients. At the same time, budget exigencies have forced the state government to close many of the psychiatric hospitals it once operated. Today, many private hospitals have been forced to board behavioral health patients in their emergency rooms until a bed in an inpatient unit can be found.

To help meet this growing community need for inpatient psychiatric hospital beds, last week Northwest Hospital opened a new and expanded behavioral health unit. While the old unit was licensed for 14 beds, the new one has 23.

“We’re pleased that Northwest Hospital is able to help alleviate some of the strain placed on area inpatient psychiatric units because of a general shortage of beds and the state’s trimming of mental health services during this down economic time,” says Brian White, Northwest’s president. “By increasing the number of our psychiatric beds, we’ll be able to better treat the communities we serve.”

The unit serves adult patients who are hospitalized for a wide variety of psychiatric conditions such as depression, schizophrenia and mood disorders. Patients must meet criteria, which include being a danger to themselves or others by virtue of their disease state and being unable to be effectively treated in a less restrictive setting.

Though most inpatient behavioral health units are quite sparse, special care was taken to ensure that Northwest’s unit would have as much aesthetic appeal as possible while still being safe for patients. To ensure maximum protection, doors, lighting and bathroom fixtures have safety mechanisms; artwork is mounted within the walls; power outlets are safety-proofed; and electronic beds have enclosed wiring.

The new unit also has two communal day rooms equipped with large, flat-screen televisions. Patients are encouraged to join in the unit’s therapeutic support groups, including expressive therapies such as art and music, and social events held in these rooms. The average patient spends about four or five days on the unit before being well enough to return to his or her community and continue treatment on an outpatient basis.

-Holly Hosler

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