Health & Wellness
Loma Linda University Behavioral Health was recently awarded $6 million in grants from California’s Mental Health Services Oversight and Accountability Commission to support emergency services in emergency departments. The grants will fund the development of two emergency psychiatric assessment units, one pediatric and one adult, to expand access to behavioral health care and decrease inpatient hospital admissions for patients needing emergency mental health services. Loma Linda University Medical Center was one of four adult institutions awarded contracts, while the Children’s Hospital was the only pediatric center selected.
The addition of emergency psychiatric assessment, treatment, and healing (EmPATH) units will transform how patients receive care, minimize their time at acute care levels within the hospital, and make it easier to access behavioral health resources. Brian Distelberg, PhD, director of research at Loma Linda University Behavioral Medicine Center, says this will also help with bottlenecking and boarding in the emergency department by routing patients from the emergency department to other appropriate levels of care.
Current practices cause patients who need mental health services to wait in the emergency department for extended periods of time, often with law enforcement or medical transport teams. Distelberg says a lot of the wait time is attributed to waiting for an inpatient behavioral health bed to open, but these beds are limited in the Inland Empire. This new model of care helps divert patients to lower levels of care safely taking a significant burden off the scarce number of inpatient beds.
"We are honored to receive this grant to support our work in providing critical emergency mental health services to those in need,” Edward Field, MBA, vice president of Loma Linda University Behavioral Health Services. “With this grant, we can expand our capacity to reach more individuals and provide the support they need to thrive.”
Renovations to existing space will include additional space and behavioral health professionals to ensure patients are quickly moved from the high-stress environment of the emergency department to the calming environment of the the EmPATH units. These units will differ in environment ambiance and pace, allowing patients to feel calm while awaiting assessment and then be provided crisis treatment or determine the next level of care.
The grant will also assist in hiring new psych-trained nurse practitioners, licensed therapists, and behavioral health registered nurses. Construction will begin this fall with a target date of January 2025 for the EmPATH units to be fully operational.
“The goal of the EmPATH units is to provide specialized behavioral health care in an environment that is tailored to the needs of these patients,” Distelberg said. “In addition, not everyone from the emergency department needs inpatient care, some need immediate assistance but then can be better served in lower levels of care such as the partial hospitalization, intensive outpatient, or outpatient offered throughout Loma Linda University Health and the broader Inland Empire community.”