Pine Rest expands amid mental health bed shortage


GAINES TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) — Pine Rest Christian Mental Health Services is expanding in an effort to treat more West Michigan kids who are sometimes left waiting weeks to get the help they need.

The nearly 27,000-square-foot expansion will add 26 beds to Pine Rest’s Cutlerville campus off 68th Street SE.

Rhonda Brink is the director for the Contact Center, which is Pine Rest’s hub for inpatient and partial hospitalization. She showed 24 Hour News 8 the entrance of the new wing connected to the Contact Center. A sign there reads “hope” in large letters.

“‘Love who you are today and always’ is a great message. ‘Let your talent shine.’ There’s a couple messages that say you are not alone,” Brink said, reading more messages displayed on the walls, all of which were written by patients and families as a welcome to kids who will stay at the new unit.

At the beginning of 2016, as hospitals were inundated with patients waiting for a bed at a mental health facility, Pine Rest started planning the expansion. It held a capital campaign to raise the $12.4 million needed for the project.

“We’re committed to making a change, to making more availability around this,” Brink said.

Of 200 total inpatient beds at the Cutlerville campus, 36 for children and adolescents.

The new beds are set to become available on July 5. They’re flex beds — a new concept in which inpatient housing can be used for either kids or adults depending on the need. Pine Rest had to get approval from the state for them.

Staff members say that as the number of kids who need inpatient care continues to rise, so do the number of beds that max out each year.

“We turned away nearly as many kids as we were able to serve” in 2016, Brink said.

That means there were about 1,200 kids who couldn’t get a bed last year.

“For some kids, it may mean a week or two” waiting at a traditional hospital, Brink said. “You heard that story from (Helen) DeVos (Children’s Hospital), the emergency room is ending up holding these kids until beds are available.”

The children’s hospital told 24 Hour News 8 last week that its staff simply isn’t equipped to give those kids the kind of treatment they need.

Brink’s message to parents who have been waiting for that treatment was one of gratitude.

“Thank you for being a good advocate for your child,” she said. “It is our goal and our mission to serve you the best we can, so don’t give up. Understand that there may not be a bed today but hopefully there will be a bed tomorrow.”

Brink said that child patients usually spend between seven and nine days at Pine Rest. The goal for their stay is to give them coping skills.

“In order to come into an inpatient program, kids really have to be at risk, there needs to be a safety risk,” Brink said. “So are they thinking about hurting themselves, do they have a plan to do that? We look at the stressors on kids and while there’s always been stressors growing up, I think the demands of kids have increased.”

The hope is kids don’t have to come back because they’re able to confront their daily struggles with the skills they learn.

“That they’ll kind of know how to deal with the feelings that they’re having and that they’ll particularly have a plan for safety. So if I feel the way I felt before I came into the hospital, I’ll know who to go to, I’ll know who to talk to, I’ll know what to try,” Brink said.

Despite that goal, Brink says, about 23 percent of kids do come back for another stay.

Brink said the stigma surrounding mental health treatment is also decreasing, which may be another reason for the higher number of patients.

“I think a piece of it is the awareness about the fact that help is available and that it’s OK to seek help,” she said.

Adults are currently using the beds in the new unit because of maintenance work at another facility.—–Resources: Pine Rest Christian Mental Health ServicesFind mental health treatment resources near youNational Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1.800.273.8255CDC: Suicide prevention

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