MRMC Healing Garden Fountain

Advancing Behavioral Health Services

With the identification and prevalence of mental health disorders in an increasing population, Marian Regional Medical Center’s Emergency Department is often overwhelmed with a surge of behavioral health patients requiring services beyond its capabilities. In Santa Barbara County, there are eight inpatient mental health beds per 100,000, which is woefully short of the recommended 50 beds per 100,000 people. This shortage often leads to behavioral health needs going unmet, with a pattern of patients presenting themselves in crisis to Marian’s Emergency Department and finding inadequate options for further inpatient or outpatient care. It is estimated that nationally one of every eight visits to an emergency department stems from mental health or substance abuse issues, and the local landscape in Marian’s Emergency Department is no different. Marian annually cares for thousands of patients with acute behavioral health needs, treating everyone and every need imaginable.

Due to county, state, and nationwide shortages of inpatient beds, patients are often forced to wait many hours and days in the Emergency Department until a bed is available. “Holding” of behavioral health patients is a daily occurrence in Marian’s Emergency Department, as it is throughout Emergency Departments in our state. Patients with mental health needs receive a medical clearance first, and when it is determined that further inpatient mental health care is necessary, Marian’s staff arranges for a transfer out of our community to the closest and most appropriate inpatient mental health facility. If and when a bed becomes available, these patients are transferred many miles out of their community to receive further care, often hundreds of miles away.

Implementing a hospital-run Crisis Stabilization Unit (CSU) in our community will provide a much needed missing element of local care for patients in acute crisis. A CSU will work intensely for 16-20 hours with patients medically cleared by the Marian Emergency Department physicians, in a safe, separate location outside of the Emergency Department. One of the many positive impacts a local CSU will have is keeping our patients local. A well-run CSU will reduce the impact of the inpatient bed shortage, as anywhere from 50-75% of patients treated in a CSU will not require transfer to an inpatient bed outside of our community.

Although providing behavioral health services is a new funding priority for Marian, mental health is not a new need. Every year, close to one in five people suffer from an acute psychiatric illness and would benefit from treatment. With mental health needs crossing all socio-economic boundaries and the increasing prevalence of mental health disorders affecting our youth, Marian Regional Medical Center is committed to raising vital dollars to support the development of a Crisis Stabilization Unit and, ultimately, the development of inpatient mental health beds.

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