Blount Memorial Closes Inpatient Psychiatric Unit | New

As of today, the Blount Memorial Emotional Health and Recovery Center at Blount Memorial Hospital, a long-standing local resource for mental health and addiction stabilization, will no longer accept inpatients. .

The move, hospital officials said in a press release, is part of a reallocation of resources to better meet the community’s mental health needs, but local advocates fear it will create even more difficult for these patients to get the help they need from a surcharged system.

The hospital “is not eliminating all behavioral health services,” the Dec. 3 press release noted, but “is working to make outpatient care more accessible to more people in order to improve performance. access to services that people presenting to the hospital emergency department may need. in times of immediate crisis.

“One change the hospital has made to help make expanded access possible is that it has stopped taking admissions to its inpatient unit and to its intensive outpatient and partial inpatient programs,” the statement continued. Press. “As the healthcare industry continues to see a dramatic increase in the number of people requiring outpatient care or in need of immediate stabilization support in emergency departments, hospitals and clinics. Health systems across the country, including us, are trying to adjust the way care is delivered.

“Here locally, Blount Memorial is adapting by focusing its resources and efforts on expanding outpatient care and immediate stabilization support in its emergency department. By doing this, the hospital predicts it will be able to help more people in the ways they and their loved ones need it most. “

Della Morrow, however, fears the move will add pressure to a system that is already showing signs of strain, largely caused by COVID-19’s mental health toll.

Morrow is the Affiliate President of the Maryville Chapter of the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill (NAMI), as well as a family member of a loved one who has suffered from mental health issues for years.

“The people I have spoken to find it difficult to seek treatment. Everywhere they call, there are several weeks of waiting for an admission appointment, and it’s really hard to get a therapy appointment, ”Morrow said. “And when they do, it’s often a short therapy session over the phone or a video session (telehealth). There’s such a shortage of mental health beds anyway, and now here’s another closure. The need is greater than ever and it appears that the availability is less than ever. “

Aubrey Vick, owner of the Maryville Wellness Center and a marriage and family therapist intern working for her own license, agrees. Her practice has been open for two and a half years, she said, and the Blount Memorial Emotional Health and Recovery Center – sometimes referred to as “3E,” because of its location on the third floor of the hospital – was a source. an invaluable reference for clients with psychiatric needs outside the scope of his practice.

“I can’t imagine in what position the hospital has to make this decision, and I know they provide a great service to our community outside of that, but honestly, I don’t know where these clients are going to go,” she said. said. “I know there are other places, but from what I hear, they’re full. Honestly, I don’t know what this is going to mean.

Blount Memorial Senior Director of Communications Josh West confirmed in an email to the Daily Times that COVID played a role in the decision to stop admissions to its inpatient, intensive ambulatory care and emergency programs. partial hospitalization. COVID protocols and a weak census, he said, mean admissions “have been suspended and restarted several times since March 2020,” but throughout that time hospital staff have worked to bring patients Behavioral health clients get the help they need – and will continue to get it, he added.

“Volunteer patients who present to the emergency department will be assessed, and we will recommend and help them get the appropriate level of care they need,” he wrote. “The only difference is that the Blount Memorial inpatient unit would not be available as a resource. However, with the reallocation of resources, the hospital anticipates having the capacity to see more outpatients who require psychiatric services.

“Each person is always treated individually. We will continue to treat and / or stabilize each patient based on the care they need, ”said West.

What that looks like remains to be seen, however, and for local mental health advocates, such uncertainty is troubling. Trish Lockard, a Maryville resident who runs her own writing and publishing business and chaired the NAMI Maryville Steering Committee for several years, knows firsthand how valuable 3E was as a mental health resource. Several years ago, she said, a family member with an anxiety disorder spent six weeks in the unit’s partial inpatient program, and it was life changing.

“It really had an extremely positive impact in his life,” Lockard said. “He felt very supported and understood, and he bonded well with the young woman who was his social worker. He had one-on-one meetings with her several times a week, group therapy, classes, homework, and he had to keep a therapy journal.

“Based on that experience, I would say this program has been invaluable. I only told him recently that the program was no longer there, and he said, “If I needed to go to some kind of program, where would I go now?” And I said, ‘I’m not really sure.’ I guess Peninsula (hospital, in Louisville)? I don’t know what other similar programs are available. I feel like this has left a huge void in the services available to people with a mental health diagnosis in Blount County.

Steve Wildsmith was editor and writer for The Daily Times for almost 17 years and continues to work as a freelance on entertainment-related topics, local performances, and East Tennessee artists. Contact him at [email protected]

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