LINVILLE — Appalachian Regional Healthcare System announced Nov. 5 that its new, freestanding Appalachian Regional Behavioral Health Hospital officially opened its doors on Nov. 15.
“The most important component of this new hospital is providing services in a manner that promotes dignity to the patients and families we’re here to serve. Through our inpatient and outpatient services, our goal is to meet people where they are and for what they need at any given time,” said Stephanie Greer, President of Appalachian Regional Behavioral Health.
ARBH will follow a tiered opening schedule to ensure that patient needs are met every step of the way. The schedule will be:
- Nov. 15, the new hospital will open with 10 beds, the same number currently housed at Cannon Memorial Hospital
- Nov. 29, bed capacity will expand to 15
- Dec. 13, a total of 20 beds will be available
- Dec. 27, ARBH will expand to 27-bed capacity
Patients can begin self-presentation (walk-in) on Dec. 27. At this time, law enforcement agencies can bring involuntarily committed individuals directly to ARBH for evaluation as well.
Meeting the needs of the High Country and beyond
Since 2008, Charles A. Cannon Jr. Memorial Hospital has provided a safe and secure space for mental health patients who perhaps would have nowhere to go, or would have to travel a long distance to find help. The new hospital, solely dedicated to behavioral health, will extend that to even more patients in the years to come.
Before ARBH was established, the Cannon 10-bed inpatient unit was the only inpatient behavioral health facility within a 40-mile radius, receiving more than 5,000 psychiatric referrals from across the state each year. Cannon was only able to admit about 11 percent of those referrals — an average of 560 patients per year.
The new 27-bed facility will be able to serve 1,500 patients each year — three times what Cannon has been able to accommodate in the past.
“By expanding the number of behavioral health beds available, more High Country residents will be able to receive treatment close to home in a timely manner,” Greer said.
Walk-in assessment, beginning Dec. 27, will eliminate the need for Emergency Department visits.
Across the state of North Carolina, patients needing long-term psychiatric hospital beds typically wait about 92 hours — just under four days — in the Emergency Department. Locally, the average wait time to find appropriate treatment options for behavioral health patients is 16 to 18 hours. Those ED beds cannot be used for other medical emergencies while patients are waiting for transfer.
After ARBH reaches full operational capacity on Dec. 27, adults ages 18 to 64 with any issue will be able walk into the facility and behavioral health professionals will assess them to determine if they need inpatient or outpatient care. There is no need for a referral or to visit an ED first.
If a person does not need psychiatric hospitalization or involuntary commitment, crisis services can still be helpful with an action plan and a referral to outpatient services.
What does a top-tier behavioral health treatment experience look like?
ARBH provides a top-tier treatment experience for patients. The healing environment includes open areas with natural light and mountain views. Caregivers partner with patients to meet them where they are and provide a combination of coping skills and innovative approaches to therapy.
“I’m proud to work with a team that recognizes you cannot neglect mental health as part of total health. Our team approach is a resource to help clients on their journey to wellness, realizing that the client is an integral part of the plan and decision-making process,” said Ella Markland, FNP/PMHNP, Avery County native and Behavioral Health Nurse Practitioner.
To fulfill the mission to provide care while maintaining the patient’s dignity and autonomy, the hospital is comprised of three separate spaces: Admissions, Treatment Mall and Residence Hall. All patients go through an admissions process which includes nursing care, medical history and physical assessments. At the time of admission every patient will get an individual meal, medication and therapy treatment schedule.
The Treatment Mall is where patients receive their treatment services. The hospital has three primary group rooms with a different focus for each treatment session based on the customized plan the patient receives upon admission. During the treatment sessions, notes are taken and printed at the end of each session for outpatients to add to their treatment manual, equipping them for success after discharge.
Due to an active treatment plan, patients sleep and eat in the Residence Hall area but are rarely in their rooms.
Family support systems are cornerstones of behavioral health during the treatment and recovery process. Family members are invited and encouraged to attend treatment team meetings. These meetings provide information on the patient’s plan of care and treatment goals. Discharge and aftercare needs will also be discussed during the treatment team meetings.
A patient’s relationship with ARBH may not end at discharge. Patients may be referred to outpatient services to continue treatment.
“Unlike every other diagnosis, there seems to be a stigma or fear to talk about behavioral health,” said Greer. “But the truth is that one-in-four adults will suffer every year from a diagnosable mental illness. Our goal is to meet these people where they are and to provide them with the care they so desperately need.”
What to do if you or a loved one needs help
Eva Trivett-Clark, Appalachian Regional Behavioral Health Program Manager, shared guidance for those concerned they or a loved one may be suffering from a mental health condition.
“A general rule of thumb [for symptoms] is any noticeable increase or decrease in behaviors, thoughts or feelings,” Trivett-Clark said. “An increase in behavior might include talking rapidly, pacing or sleeping too much. A decrease in typical behavior may include such things as withdrawal from family and friends, sleeping too little or feelings of helplessness and hopelessness. Any suicidal thoughts, plans or behaviors should be evaluated immediately by calling 911, walking in to ARBH, or going to the local Emergency Department.”
For less severe symptoms, getting help is as simple as calling Outpatient Behavioral Health at (828) 737-7888 or requesting an appointment online at apprhs.org/arbh. No referral is needed. Completing the depression screening tool, available on the website, is often a good place to start in determining whether one needs help.
While reaching out for help may seem like a big step for some, perhaps the hardest task is convincing a reluctant loved one (particularly one who is an adult) that they need professional help. Sometimes listening, validating and asking questions are sufficient, but if they have harmed themselves or someone else, or they are likely to do so, 911 should be called, or they should be taken to ARBH for walk-in assessment.
The truth is everyone struggles sometimes. Whether mental health illnesses come from genetics, personality, life events or brain chemistry, it’s important to know that it’s ok to not be ok. Most mental illnesses don’t improve on their own, and if untreated, may worsen over time and cause serious problems. Professionals at ARBH are ready to help.
Although the new Behavioral Health Hospital is a part of ARHS, it is separate from Cannon, which will no longer house an inpatient behavioral health unit. Cannon will continue to operate as a fully accredited Critical Access Hospital, including an inpatient acute care unit, full-service emergency department, imaging department, laboratory, outpatient behavioral health, cardiopulmonary rehabilitation, and physical and occupational therapies provided by The Rehabilitation Center.
Call (828) 737-7071 for more information about the Appalachian Regional Behavioral Health hospital or visit apprhs.org/arbh.