HCN News & Notes

Baystate Health to Open Child/Adolescent Behavioral-health Unit

SPRINGFIELD — Addressing the critical shortage of behavioral-health services for children in the region, Baystate Health will open a temporary 12-bed child/adolescent unit on its Baystate Medical Center campus in Springfield in April.

The closure of Providence Behavioral Health Hospital and the chronic shortage of pediatric behavioral-health beds has left many vulnerable children without any available inpatient resources in the region. This has resulted in alarming numbers of children waiting for days and weeks in the emergency room and on pediatric medical units.

Dr. Barry Sarvet, chair of the Department of Psychiatry for Baystate Health, who specializes in pediatric psychiatry, noted that the health system has been collaborating with the state Department of Mental Health on how to meet the behavioral-health needs of the region’s younger population.

“This new unit will serve as a bridge, allowing us to provide inpatient psychiatric care for children and adolescents over the next two years when our new Baystate-Kindred joint-venture behavioral-health hospital opens with a permanent pediatric/adolescent unit,” Sarvet said. “This temporary plan is consistent with Baystate Health’s longstanding commitment to behavioral-health services.”

Baystate Health and Kindred Behavioral Health’s joint venture to create a much-needed behavioral-health hospital in the region — for adults as well as children and adolescents — recently received unanimous support from the Holyoke City Council to purchase land on Lower Westfield Road in Holyoke for construction of the proposed facility.

“I am delighted and grateful that the partnership between Baystate and Kindred will address a critical health need of children in Western Massachusetts,” said Dr. Charlotte Boney, chair of the Department of Pediatrics at Baystate Children’s Hospital. “The increasing prevalence of behavioral and mental-health problems in our children is a national challenge. Approximately 13% to 20% of children in the U.S. experience a behavioral or mental-health disorder every year, making this a bigger challenge than COVID-19 in pediatrics. I so appreciate the leadership that Baystate Health has shown in taking action and stepping up to address this critical need.”

The planned $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. Once the purchase of the land is final, which is expected in the next several months, it will take approximately two years to design and construct the new hospital with a targeted opening date in 2023.

“Baystate Health is fully committed to the principle that behavioral health is integral to the overall health and well-being of all people in our community,” Sarvet said. “Accordingly, 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.”