Sheridan Memorial Hospital has received a grant to develop an emergency mental health facility

Sheridan Memorial Hospital received a $5.9 million grant from the State Loan and Investment Board on Nov. 16. The money will help develop an Emergency Psychiatric Assessment, Treatment, Cure (EmPATH) and Crisis Stabilization Unit for Sheridan County and the surrounding region.

“The whole [the grant] is for construction investments associated with a $12.8 million project that includes the renovation of existing hospital facilities,” said Mike McCafferty, CEO of Sheridan Memorial Hospital. “What is happening with the funds is that we are renovating rooms that are currently being used for our medical department and we are going to create some type of emergency psychiatric care or emergency behavioral health care that will serve as the front door to our EmPATH unit.”

The facility will include eight inpatient behavioral health beds for adults and two for adolescents. Currently, resources to provide behavioral therapies are limited and insufficient to treat patients at the point of care. In addition to offering telepsychiatric services, the hospital has full-time mental health professionals, support staff, 24-hour security, and transportation to take patients to other mental health facilities in the state, but no emergency facilities.

“We have a fractured care system in Wyoming, and it starts with a lack of clinical expertise and a lack of people with the skills and expertise to appropriately manage behavioral issues. [for] People in small communities,” he said. “Because of the lack of physical ability that we have or the space to be able to hold people, we’re in it [a] Position in which we refer people from our community to other mental health facilities for inpatient treatment. And the problem with that is that there’s a waiting list statewide, and it’s not like you can get someone right away. It can take 10 to 14 days for someone to reach the appropriate level of care and that is just unacceptable.”

Patients held under Title 25, an involuntary arrest, are transferred to the Wyoming Behavioral Institute in Casper or the Wyoming State Hospital in Evanston. They must be dealt with appropriately within a specified period of time and within Wyoming state statuteadded McCafferty.

Patients who do not fall under Title 25 are transferred to Gillette, Laramie, Cheyenne or even other states. The condition of the grant is that the Sheridan facility be completed by 2026. But even with the facility’s opening several years away, hospital officials are assessing what the need will be to adequately staff it.

“We’re sort of working in tandem with the construction project itself, we’re beginning to look at what the best care needs of the region are going to be from a clinical expertise perspective,” McCafferty said. “So we’re working with a few different providers to try to determine exactly what we need to care for the patients.”

Plans for the psychiatric facility have been welcomed both locally and by other communities in the area.

“We’ve seen a 20 per cent increase in involuntary suspensions over the last few years, we’ve seen a 20 per cent increase in the number of referrals we’ve had in the community. This mental health issue is one that we definitely need to address in our community,” he said.

The hospital has also partnered with local, regional and statewide advocacy groups seeking to build partnerships in the community to address mental health needs in the area.

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