IRMC Behavioral Health Project
Contact: Mark Richards
Indiana County and the surrounding regions are critically underserved for health care, and particularly more so for mental health care.
Since 2020, the needs have skyrocketed while the provider community is suffering the worst personnel crisis in its history. Training new health care professionals to recognize mental health concerns early and address them while the most costly and catastrophic results can be prevented is foundational to the entire project.
The population in the service area has limited access to primary care and utilizes the emergency room and urgent care for many of their needs. Drug addiction, poverty, and unemployment creates unique challenges to providers who are not positioned to cope with the publicly funded Medical Assistance recipients or uninsured patients.
As a result, IRMC will construct a 31,000 sq ft mental health facility comprised of 44 beds that will care for adolescent, adult and geriatric patients.
“As an independent community hospital, we understand the needs of the people we serve,” said Stephen A. Wolfe, President & CEO of Indiana Regional Medical Center. “Behavioral health needs have been a critical issue for some time and only worsened due to the pandemic.”
“Our hope is to provide care and comfort to the patients and families affected.”
Coordinating and integrating mental and physical health care is the goal of this effort. Better health outcomes for patients living in the region is the expected result. The fact that providing appropriate care early will prove cost-effective is a good reason for the Commonwealth to have an interest in supporting this project.
Behavioral health is the number one transfer from most Emergency Departments throughout our region. This new venture will help keep more patients, family members and loved ones closer to home as they work through various issues. It will help reduce cost, length of stay, and staff burnout for numerous other hospitals because we all struggle with mental health patient placement.
IRMC has local and regional support for this project and worked alongside our partners at the Armstrong-Indiana-Clarion Drug and Alcohol Commission, Armstrong-Indiana Behavioral Health and Development Program, and Southwest Behavioral Health Management to get a $4.8 million HealthChoices reinvestment plan approved by the Pennsylvania Department of Human Services – Office of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services to assist with construction costs of this facility.
“The Community based mental health system has been inadequately funded for many years. There was a significant 10% cut in 2012 with no mental health funding increases since,” said Tammy Calderone, Armstrong-Indiana Behavioral and Developmental Health program Administrator. “I am excited about the opportunity to partner with IRMC in securing funds for the development of the inpatient beds for our region. This is a much-needed service that will support residents in our communities and strengthen the existing behavioral health continuum of care.”
The anticipated outcomes from this project will not only be significant locally but regionally. By increasing the inpatient behavioral health bed capacity for individuals in need of this level of care county, residents will be able to remain in their community and not have to utilize beds in surrounding counties or go out of state. In 2021 alone, 200 Indiana County residents had to be served in 23 inpatient facilities located throughout Western and Central Pennsylvania as well as Ohio.
“I am excited to see this project come to fruition,” said Kami Anderson, Executive Director at Armstrong-Indiana-Clarion Drug and Alcohol Commission. “Inpatient mental health beds are very limited in Western Pa and the addition of these beds will help our area residents access quality care locally. IRMC has been an excellent partner in developing and implementing rural behavioral health programs in Indiana County.”
An additional anticipated outcome of this project is that the wait time in the Emergency Department will be reduced. Over a twelve-year period, the wait time for a psychiatric patient at IRMC Emergency Department to locate a psychiatric inpatient bed increased from 1.5 hours in 2009 to over 11 hours in 2021. Often, patients are waiting multiple days for a bed to be located.
Construction will begin this fall with anticipated completion near the end of 2023.