Healthcare Business News

Alexian seeks to boost behavioral health capacity

By Rachel Landen
Posted: March 13, 2014 - 1:30 pm ET

Alexian Brothers Health System, Arlington Heights, Ill., announced plans to integrate its acute-care and behavioral health services in an effort to deal with increased demand for mental health treatment and a growing shortage of inpatient psychiatric beds.

The division of Roman Catholic healthcare system Ascension Health plans to first convert what is now a medical/surgical unit at Alexian Brothers Medical Center in Elk Grove Village, Ill., into a 25-bed psychiatric unit for adults to open in June of this year. The opening is dependent on the Illinois Health Facilities and Services Review Board approving the $1.2 million renovation (PDF).

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“Having a psychiatric unit within the confines of the Alexian Brothers Medical Center would expedite mental health services for patients,” said Brian Gross, senior administrator at nearby skilled-nursing facility Manor Care Health Services-Elk Grove Village (PDF), in a letter of support to the board. “Frequently, patients have had to wait in the emergency room or on a medical unit until a bed becomes available.”

Alexian also would convert an area in one of its acute-care facilities into a gero-psychiatric inpatient unit to treat psychiatric patients with medical co-morbidities in one location, as well as relieve some of the burden on Alexian Brothers Behavioral Health Hospital.

That hospital, located in Hoffman Estates, Ill., is the seventh largest behavioral health provider nationally, based on net patient revenue last calculated in 2012. But like other psychiatric facilities, it is struggling to meet demand as state-operated psychiatric hospitals close and community hospitals eliminate psychiatric services. The 141-bed facility, which is typically at or near capacity, redirects 1,200 patients each year away from its location to other mental health facilities with available space.

Illinois has decreased its state-operated inpatient behavioral health capacity from more than 35,000 beds in the 1960s to about 1,400 by 2009, according to the Illinois Hospital Association (PDF). Meanwhile, in 2009, Illinois hospital emergency departments treated more than 750,000 patients with a behavioral health condition.

Follow Rachel Landen on Twitter: @MHrlanden

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