CentraCare’s St. Cloud Hospital recently opened Minnesota’s second Emergency Psychiatric Assessment, Treatment, and Healing (EmPATH), according to KNSI. The new unit was created to give care for adult patients in a more tranquil and welcoming environment compared to the sometimes chaotic setting of a hospital’s emergency facilities. It might eventually expand its services to include child and adolescent patients, which are underserved groups in the state.
The unit is not considered inpatient because it is designed for stays of up to 24 hours. The primary focus of this EmPATH unit is to help the person in need get back to the community without putting life on pause with a longer inpatient stay.
The unit serves people with anxiety, depression, hallucinations, protracted grief and suicidal thoughts, and specialists that include psychotherapists, behavioral health technicians, psychiatric providers and mental health nurses are available. On the hospital’s top floor, the new mental health unit features an open space with recliners for up to 12 patients, calming rooms and other spaces that motivate patients to interact with each other.
Psychiatric care is the sixth most common cause for patients to visit St. Cloud's emergency room. This means that almost 4,000 patients a year come to the hospital for that service, according to the Star Tribune. CentraCare believes that up to 80 percent of patients who are brought through the new unit can become stabilized within 24 hours because of timely, patient-centric care. In the future, the EmPATH unit also will help people experiencing the beginning stages of a mental illness before their symptoms become so hard to handle that they need to be hospitalized.
The new mental health unit fills a hole in the community that previously left those who needed inpatient care sitting in the emergency room for hours before they could be admitted to St. Cloud’s mental health unit. Sometimes those waiting would have to be transferred to another unit in the state or even North Dakota. Construction started in December of last year and was funded by a $1.2 million grant from the Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust.