Pine Rest seeks emergency approval for adolescent treatment unit

Michigan

GAINES TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) — More help may be on the way for young people dealing with mental health issues.

Pine Rest Christian Mental Health Services has put in an emergency request to the state to approve a 40-bed adolescent psychiatric care unit at its Campus Clinic.

The need for the additional beds is measured in what Pine Rest calls its “turnaways.”

“… which is the data point we use at Pine Rest to describe a patient who has come to our hospital and we don’t have a bed available for them — for kids, has gone up 600%,” said Bob Nykamp, vice president and chief operating officer at Pine Rest Christian Mental Health Services.

Nykamp says the impact of schools being closed and events canceled early in the pandemic is showing up in the number of young people needing mental health treatment.

“That lack of socialization. That lacking of structure that kids really need,” Nykamp said. “Most of the time, they are stuck in the emergency departments or in hospitals waiting for beds. And obviously, an emergency department or an acute care bed is just not the safest place for them.”

Spectrum Health has seen a 40% increase in discharges of adolescent mental health patients from the Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital Emergency Department since the beginning of the pandemic.

Nykamp says he expects a decision from to the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services by Oct. 4 for the emergency certificate of needs request.

The process would normally take months.

If approved, Pine Rest would create the unit at the Pine Rest Campus Clinic.

The new unit would also give Pine Rest some flexibility if the need for adult mental health services increase.

While adolescent and adult populations can’t be mixed in acute mental health care settings, the proposed unit can be flipped to handle where the need is greatest.

“It allows us to respond to a community need in a much more unique and special way,” Nykamp said.

Getting approval for the unit is one challenge. Staffing is another.

So far, Nykama says Pine Rest has been able to attract and retain staff.

“But it is not easy. It’s the hardest it’s been in my 35-year career in health care,” Nykamp said.

And while the need has reached a critical level, Nykamp also says it’s shown more and more young people and their parents are recognizing that it’s all right to admit you’re not OK.

“You’re seeing much more comfortableness with seeking behavioral health care quickly. To be open about that with your family and friends,” Nykamp said. “So, stigma is reducing. And I do believe that’s also impacting the numbers.”

Pine Rest expects to cover the $2 million cost for the added beds with a combination of existing funds and donations.

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