Valley News – DHMC adds rooms for emergency mental health treatment

Posted: 09/14/2022 01:11:38

Modified: 09/14/2022 01:11:08

LEBANON — Nine new rooms in the emergency department at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center in Lebanon are expected to open to patients on Thursday, according to a news release.

The project, built over 16 months and whose total cost is estimated at $9.9 million, aims to better meet behavioral and geriatric needs in the Upper Valley.

“Our focus has always been rapid behavioral health assessment, stabilization and transfer to treatment,” said Dr. Christine Finn, psychiatrist and director of emergency psychiatric services at DHMC, in the statement. “Now we can restart treatment when a patient has to wait in the emergency room.”

The department now has a total of 11 rooms available for behavioral healthcare, which have safety features to allow better visibility and reduce the risk of self-harm. Six of the new rooms have a window, an important feature for people staying on the ward for more than a few hours and for older people for whom natural light can help minimize episodes of heightened confusion known as “going to bed.” Sun”.

The changes come as access to mental health beds continues to be a challenge for hospitals and patients in New Hampshire, Vermont and across the country. Patients in mental health crisis are often stuck waiting in emergency departments for days or weeks without access to treatment. On Monday, 42 adults and 19 children were waiting for mental health beds in New Hampshire, according to the state Department of Health and Human Services.

Changes to the emergency department also include a treatment room with negative pressure capability for high-risk infection; a group activity/therapy room; a mass decontamination room and a single decontamination room.

The new spaces aim to increase security, allowing greater privacy to communicate with attorneys and the state justice system, and creating space for social activities for children and young adults.

The opening of the new behavioral health beds will allow DHMC to reopen a geriatric unit in the emergency department.

In March 2021, DH announced in a press release that DHMC had become the nation’s only Tier 1 rural geriatric emergency department, a designation it earned through the American College of Emergency Physicians. . The designation indicates that DHMC will maintain best practices for working with older adults, provide interdisciplinary geriatric training, and make appropriate equipment and supplies available.

Just last month, Mt. Ascutney Hospital and Health Center in Windsor, a member of the DH system, announced that it had achieved accreditation as a Level 2 Geriatric Emergency Department, which , he says, would help him ensure the best transition of care from the emergency room. department to other settings and would also prioritize geriatrics education.

“I am proud to say that we provide the best care to our elderly patients,” said Lee Morissette, assistant chief medical officer for the Mt. Ascutney emergency department, in a press release last month.

DH first announced plans for its geriatric emergency department program in 2019 as part of a three-year, $4.5 million research collaboration with the West Health Institute, a medical research organization applied based in California.

DH later announced that Mt. Ascutney, along with Alice Peck Day Memorial Hospital in Lebanon, Gifford Medical Center in Randolph, and Valley Regional Hospital in Claremont, would gain accreditation as geriatric emergency services – “spokesperson” for the DHMC “hub”. Aimed at reducing hospital admissions and readmissions, as well as improving the diagnosis and treatment of patients with delirium and dementia, the project was expected to, among other things, enable clinicians in small hospitals to consult, using telemedicine, DHMC geriatricians.

Nora Doyle-Burr can be reached at or 603-727-3213.


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