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New Unit Increases Capacity for Behavioral Health Patients

Expanded Partial Hospitalization Program Serves Adults, Teens

On May 26, CalvertHealth Medical Center opened its newly renovated Behavioral Health Unit for the Partial Hospitalization Program (PHP). The timely move not only provides a designated space for the PHP program, but allows for expanded volume to meet the increasing need for these services.

According to a recent study by Vizient, a national health care performance improvement company, the need for behavioral health services is expected to increase within the next six to nine months due to anxiety with COVID-19. “With the Partial Hospitalization Program in a separate, specially designed space, we will be able to accommodate more patients, with separate staff for adults and adolescents. In the previous space before current restrictions with COVID-19, we could only accommodate a maximum of 15 PHP patients,” said Vice President, Clinical Services/Chief Nursing Officer Diane Couchman, MBA, BSN, RN.

“This is a very exciting time for us, and for the community,” said Behavioral Health Unit Director Jennifer Messix, BSN, RN- BC. “Calvert County has seen an increase in patients with mental health needs and we are proud of our efforts to meet those needs through improved facilities and programs that help people in crisis.”

Behavioral health encompasses a wide range of conditions that affect a person’s thinking, mood and behavior. CalvertHealth’s Behavioral Health Unit provides essential care for persons with depression, anxiety disorder, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and other behavioral health conditions.

When a person comes to the emergency department (ED) or is brought in by family or friends for a behavioral or mental health emergency, he or she is immediately seen by a physician who puts in a request for an emergency psych social worker. Once the patient is medically stable, or no longer under the influence of drugs or alcohol, the social worker can do a full evaluation. The team of ED physician, social worker and CHMC’s on-call psychiatric provider determines if the patient should be admitted, should be enrolled in the Partial Hospitalization Program, or should be discharged with a follow-up plan for treatment. “All members of the treatment team work together to identify the appropriate level of care for the patient,” said Couchman.

In 2019, CHMC Emergency Psychiatric Services assessed 1,381 patients in the ED. Of those, 377 were admitted to inpatient services, 134 were admitted to outpatient PHP services, 174 were transferred to other facilities and 696 were discharged with resources provided, according to Messix.

Partial Hospitalization Program

PHP is an outpatient program serving patients with mental health concerns following discharge from an inpatient stay or following an evaluation in the emergency department. When it is determined that the patient would best be served in an intense, structured outpatient program, they are enrolled in PHP.

The PHP team is comprised of a psychiatrist, a PHP coordinator that is a registered nurse, adolescent counselor, an adult counselor and a social worker.

As a group experience, PHP patients gather for 6.5 hours during the day for therapy, structured activities, and individual meetings with staff. Adults 18 and older, and adolescents older than 13 and younger than 18, meet in separate, age-appropriate areas. Each wing has a group meeting area, dining and social areas, consultation rooms and staff facilities. School-age patients work with a staff member who coordinates schoolwork and homework with the school system.

When Should I Seek Help?

Diagnosing mental illness isn’t always straightforward. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), each condition has its own set of unique symptoms, though symptoms often overlap.

Common mental illness signs include:

  • Feeling very sad or withdrawn for more than two weeks
  • Trying to harm or end one’s life or making plans to do so
  • Severe, out-of-control, risk-taking behavior that causes harm to self or others
  • Sudden overwhelming fear for no reason, sometimes with a racing heart, physical discomfort or difficulty breathing
  • Significant weight loss or gain
  • Seeing, hearing or believing things that aren’t real
  • Excessive use of alcohol
  • Illicit drug use
  • Drastic changes in mood, behavior, personality or sleeping habits
  • Extreme difficulty concentrating or staying still
  • Intense worries or fears that get in the way of daily activities

Where Should I Seek Help?

If you or your friend or loved one is in immediate need of help, call 911 or go to the nearest hospital emergency department. For non-urgent assistance, contact your health insurance provider for a listing of local counseling and therapy providers. Calvert County Mental Health Clinic, through the health department, provides programs and services to individuals of all ages who have mental, emotional or substance use issues.
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