Pine Rest seeks solutions after request for new psychiatric care unit denied

Kent County

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Pine Rest Christian Mental Health Services is working to make sure kids and adults suffering from a mental illness have somewhere to go, but the Kent County organization has hit a roadblock when it comes to offering more services.

In September, Pine Rest requested emergency approval from the state to permanently​ add a 40-bed adolescent psychiatric care unit at its Campus Clinic. The request was denied.

Leadership with the organization says the need won’t go away unless they find a solution.

“We think we’re in an emergency,” Bob Nykamp, the vice president and COO of Pine Rest Christian Mental Health Services, said.

Nykamp said that since the pandemic began, the need for help has gone up.

“Continued isolation increased use of drugs and alcohol. All of those things continued to demand that these services be available to our community,” he said.

When requesting emergency approval from the state, Pine Rest was only granted temporary approval for three years. Nykamp said this doesn’t solve the problem.

“Our board of directors is pretty clear. They’re not going to allow us to spend $6+ million on renovating a facility for temporary beds that we might not have in three years, so that’s the problem,” Nykamp said.

In the meantime, the company said that its doing other things to try and fill the need, such as expanding urgent care and crisis stabilization services and using adult beds for younger patients. This short-term solution is causing other issues.

“Now we’re seeing our adult turnaways increasing as we try and take care of more kids in the community right now,” Nykamp said.

Ultimately, the goal is to never have to turn someone away, Nykamp said. For youth patients, that means getting at least 60 more beds. Pine Rest wants to make sure when someone needs help, they have somewhere to go.

“When you need a behavioral health service, no matter what that service is from, outpatient therapy to acute inpatient care and everything in between that, that service is available when you need it. That’s the goal,” he said.

Nykamp added that he’s glad the stigma surrounding mental health is reducing and more people are comfortable coming forward.

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