When it comes to access to mental healthcare services, those in need of care who live in the Central Valley encounter significant disparities in services and support in the region.
But a new partnership launched on Sept. 18 between Valley Children’s Healthcare and Universal Health Services (UHS) aims to reduce those disparities by building a new behavioral health hospital in Madera.
“There is hardly a day that goes by that I don’t get a question from a parent, a healthcare provider or a community member in search of behavioral healthcare for their kids-and, in particular, behavioral healthcare that is right here in the Valley,” said Todd Suntrapak, president and CEO of Valley Children’s Healthcare.
Suntrapak made the announcement this month that UHS will construct and operate an 81,600 square foot, 128-bed behavioral health facility on Valley Children’s Madera campus.
“We are proud to celebrate this new partnership with Valley Children’s,” said Bob Deney, senior vice president, Universal Health Services, Behavioral Health Division. “Our mutual goal is to always provide patients and their loved ones with high-quality, compassionate services and support.”
The new hospital will employ more than 250 people, including clinicians, nurses, mental health technicians, support staff and administration.
“The behavioral healthcare needs for our children and families are significant and this new facility will provide our Valley with new resources closer to home,” said Suntrapak of the hospital that will provide accessible, high-quality and advanced behavioral health services in the Central Valley.
The new facility will feature a full continuum of inpatient services, including units designed specifically for children and adolescents, ages 5 to 17.
One 24-bed unit will be dedicated specifically to pediatric psychiatric care, treatment, services and educational needs, assisting Valley Children’s in addressing the needs of patients presenting to the Emergency Department, according to hospital officials.
Additional units at the new behavioral health hospital will serve adults and seniors.
Specialty programs for adults with co-occurring behavioral health and substance use issues will be offered to meet the unique needs of those patients.
“I continue to be inspired and humbled when hospitals lead and respond to the needs of the people they serve,” said Carmela Coyle, president and CEO, California Hospital Association. “That’s what Valley Children’s Healthcare and Universal Health Services are doing by investing in anew behavioral health facility in the Central Valley.”
In addition, the facility will offer robust outpatient programs to address the most prevalent behavioral health concerns, including child, adolescent and family counseling; and treatment for depression, anxiety disorders and other common behavioral health issues, according to hospital officials.
Not only the state continues to face a shortage for inpatient behavioral health beds for adults as well as a shortage of inpatient services for children ages 5 to 17, but the shortage for those same services in Valley’s Children’s 12-country service area, continues to be accentuated.
According to the Office of Statewide Health Planning and Development (OSHPD) there are only 49 current beds for inpatient behavioral health to serve the 929,436 children between the ages of 6 to 17 residing in the Central Valley which means there is one bed for every 18,968 child or adolescent.
The Treatment Advocacy Center, a national nonprofit organization dedicated to eliminating barriers to the timely and effective treatment of severe mental illness, recommends one inpatient bed per every 2,000 residents, Valley Children’s officials said.
“Their commitment to children with mental health and substance use disorders exemplifies all that hospitals can and should be doing to help people live better lives,” Coyle said. “The residents of California’s Central Valley will be stronger in mind and body thanks to your leadership, and I’m personally grateful for affirming to everyone what hospitals are truly all about.”
Even though construction of the new hospital is expected to begin in 2020, with an estimated opening day for 2022, Valley Children’s and UHS will immediately begin work on a psychiatric residency program, as well as telepsychology services for children served by the Valley Children’s network of care.
“UHS is proud to collaborate with highly respected, leading health care organizations in key markets across the country, to provide services that save lives, restore hope and improve communities,” Deney said.