SPRINGFIELD — Addressing the critical shortage of behavioral-health services for children in the region, Baystate Health opened a temporary, 12-bed child/adolescent psychiatric unit on its Baystate Medical Center campus in Springfield on April 28.
“This new unit serves as a bridge allowing us to provide inpatient psychiatric care for children and adolescents over the next two years until our new Baystate-Kindred Healthcare joint-venture behavioral-health hospital opens with a permanent pediatric/adolescent unit,” said Dr. Barry Sarvet, chair of the Department of Psychiatry at Baystate Health. “The rapid development of a new psychiatric unit for children in the hospital is a very complex project, and we’re quite proud of the extraordinary efforts of all involved.”
Sarvet explained that the health system has been collaborating with the Department of Mental Health on how to meet the behavioral health needs of the area’s younger population. Due to the reduction of available pediatric behavioral-health beds in the region, compounded by the increased demand for these services during the pandemic, many vulnerable children have been left without any available inpatient resources. This has resulted in alarming numbers of children waiting for days and weeks in the emergency room and on pediatric medical units.
“While the new temporary unit will be owned and operated by Baystate Health, our partners at Kindred Behavioral Health Services will be assisting us in managing its day-to-day operations and staffing the unit with nurses and mental-health counselors,” Sarvet said. “Child and adolescent psychiatrists and psychiatric nurse practitioners from the Baystate Health Department of Psychiatry will oversee the treatment of each patient on the unit.”
Rob Marsh, senior vice president and chief operating officer for Kindred Behavioral Health Services, added that “we look forward to working in partnership with Baystate Health to help address the need for high-quality inpatient psychiatric care for children and adolescents in Western Massachusetts.”
Support from the Western Mass. legislative delegation through funding in the FY21 state budget was critical in making it possible for Baystate Health to undertake the project.
“Our legislative partners have been keenly focused on the need to expand behavioral-health services in our region and are aware these beds will better serve the needs of their constituents in a setting closer to home,” Sarvet said.
Baystate Health and Kindred Behavioral Health Services’ joint venture to create a state-of-the-art behavioral health hospital in the region — for adults as well as children and adolescents — has also received unanimous support from the Holyoke City Council to purchase land on Lower Westfield Road in Holyoke for construction of the proposed hospital.
The $55 million, 150-bed facility will address the shortage of inpatient behavioral health beds in the region for adults, including geriatrics, as well as adolescents and children.
“The new temporary child/adolescent psychiatric unit is just the beginning of a welcomed partnership with Kindred Behavioral Health that will result in a much-needed expansion of psychiatric services in the region,” Sarvet said. “We proudly accept our responsibility to address critical gaps in clinical resources to meet the needs of people of all ages who are struggling with psychiatric illness.”