CSU Staff

Advancing Behavioral Health Services

For all patient-related inquiries regarding Marian's Outpatient Psychiatric Unit, please contact (805) 614-5620.

Why Behavioral Health Services?

  • 50 inpatient mental health beds are recommended to serve every 100,000 people. Santa Barbara County has only 8 for every 100,000 people.
  • Every day, 2-3 behavioral health patients are waiting to be transferred to a behavioral health facility. Holds last an average of 24-36 hours before they are transferred or released.
  • 1 of every 8 emergency department visits are behavioral health or substance abuse related.

Why Establish a Behavioral Observation Unit (Crisis Stabilization Unit)?

  • Behavioral Observation Unit staff is comprised of specially trained psychiatrists, psychiatric nurses, and support staff.
  • Behavioral Observation Unit staff work intensely with patients, stabilizing them for 16-20 hours before safely discharging or transferring them.
  • Behavioral Observation Unit will reduce the impact of inpatient bed shortage, with 50-75% of patients not requiring a transfer out of the community.

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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 Behavioral Observation Unit in our community will provide a much-needed missing element of local care for patients in acute crisis. A Behavioral Observation Unit 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 Behavioral Observation Unit will have is keeping our patients local. A well-run Behavioral Observation Unit will reduce the impact of the inpatient bed shortage, as anywhere from 50-75% of patients treated in a Behavioral Observation Unit 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 Behavioral Observation Unit and, ultimately, the development of inpatient mental health beds.