St. Luke’s University Health Network (SLUHN) on Tuesday opened its new Adolescent Behavioral Health Unit to provide safe, expert and compassionate care to children and adolescents experiencing serious mental, emotional or behavioral symptoms.
The Adolescent Behavioral Health Unit is located at St. Luke’s Easton Campus, on the hospital’s third floor. A ribbon-cutting ceremony was held on December 14.
“The St. Luke’s Adolescent Behavioral Health Unit will keep care in the community and close to home,” says Linda Grass, St. Luke’s Easton Campus President. “Young patients who are admitted to the unit can expect to be engaged in an atmosphere where healing and recovery can occur.”
The addition of its Adolescent Behavioral Health Unit further expands St. Luke’s continuum of inpatient behavioral health services, which already includes facilities for adults and the geriatric population. The need for adolescent behavioral health care has only increased during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Sadly, pediatric mental health admissions in the United States have increased approximately 50% and emergency department visits have doubled related to suicidal attempts and suicidal ideation among youth over the past decade. However, the number of available pediatric inpatient beds have not increased and access to services have remained limited,” notes Andrew Clark, MD, Medical Director of the St. Luke’s Adolescent Behavioral Health Unit.
The 16-bed, 16,000-square-foot unit is specifically designed for patients ages 12 to 18 who are experiencing emotional and behavioral problems that interfere with their daily life, physical health, family or school routine.
“We made the unit feel like a place where healing can begin,” says Valerie Kappes, RN, BSN, Patient Care Manager, Behavioral Health Inpatient Services, SLUHN. She says that all patient rooms are private and are decorated with soothing colors and bathed with natural light that streams in through vaulted windows.
Some of the conditions that will be treated on the unit include:
- Severe depression and anxiety;
- Substance use disorder;
- Juvenile post-traumatic stress disorder;
- Bipolar disorder;
- Suicidal ideation; and
- Other acute diagnoses that require crisis management, patient stabilization and/or medication initiation or adjustment.
The unit’s hospital-based, person-centered treatment offers the patient in crisis opportunities to attend individual sessions with case managers, group sessions with program and nursing staff, and daily assessments completed by the psychiatrist or advanced practitioners. “The unit’s therapeutic focus is on safety, comfort and resiliency to enable patients to identify stressors and learn to manage their responses so they can feel calmer and more confident in any setting,” Dr. Clark says.
Psychiatrists, psychologists, specialized nurses, advanced care practitioners and other certified mental health professionals will staff the St. Luke’s Adolescent Behavioral Health Unit 24/7. They will:
- Identify the patient’s goals of treatment and create of an individualized treatment plan;
- Perform a psychiatric evaluation;
- Develop a crisis plan;
- Conduct individual and group therapies;
- Prescribe medications;
- Teach personal coping skills, like mindfulness and calming self-care;
- Coordinate services that the patient will require after discharge; and
- Prepare patients to return to family, social and academic settings.
Referrals to outpatient care will be made upon patient discharge.
“A specialized team is required to provide the most advanced care,” Grass says. “Our team includes an adolescent psychiatrist, specialized nurses, teachers, social workers and case managers. Effective care also requires relationships with outside agencies, such as children and youth and long-term care facilities. The care cannot stop in the hospital. These patients will require care after discharge and we will have a team to support them both inside and outside the hospital.”
Adds Dr. Clark: “Social, emotional and behavioral well-being are keys to overall healthy development. The St. Luke’s Adolescent Behavioral Health Unit at the Easton Campus is designed specifically to help teens facing mental health crisis get their lives back on track to a healthier path.”