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Behavioral Health Hospital Launches Coronavirus Unit

Analysis  |  By Christopher Cheney  
   September 24, 2021

The new behavioral health unit is designed to meet both the medical needs and the mental health needs of patients.

A Shreveport, Louisiana-based behavioral health hospital has opened a 30-bed unit for coronavirus-positive patients who need immediate behavioral health care.

Most acute care hospitals are not equipped to treat behavioral health patients who also have a COVID-19 diagnosis. With the coronavirus pandemic's Delta variant surge and Hurricane Ida's aftermath, acute care hospitals in Louisiana are struggling to find enough inpatient beds to treat patients.

In January, a joint venture between Plano, Texas-based Oceans Healthcare and Ochsner LSU Health Shreveport opened a new 89 bed behavioral health hospital—Louisiana Behavioral Health. Oceans Healthcare operates several behavioral health hospitals in Louisiana, Texas, and Mississippi.

Early this month, Louisiana Behavioral Health established a 30-bed unit for behavioral health patients who also have a COVID-19 diagnosis. The new behavioral health unit meets a critical need, says Stuart Archer, MBA, CEO of Oceans Healthcare.

"When you take a behavioral health patient who has a unique set of needs and on top of that has an active COVID diagnosis, you have a patient who needs a special inpatient unit. Historically, these patients would be stuck in an emergency room for days or weeks. Or they could take a bed in an inpatient medical unit. There really wasn't anywhere to move that patient," he says.

The new behavioral health unit gives patients access to both mental health care and COVID-19 care, Archer says.

"Most behavioral health hospitals in Louisiana and nationally are designed with semi-private settings to improve socialization and help people as they go through their treatment. So, most behavioral health hospitals are a very hard place for a patient with an active COVID diagnosis simply because of the precautions that must be taken. You do not want to make other patients sick. It has been tough to take an active COVID psych patient on a behavioral health unit. By opening this specialized unit, we can address both needs of the patient. We can address their COVID diagnosis in a way that does not make others sick, and not delay treatment for their behavioral health condition," he says.

The new behavioral health unit is equipped to treat patients with a COVID diagnosis, Archer says.

"All of the infectious disease protocols and standards are followed on the unit, and they are similar to what you would see on any other active COVID unit. The nurses and other caregivers have the appropriate personal protective equipment. So, we have a strong behavioral health component on the unit along with a strong medical component. Patients are seen by both a medical physician and a psychiatrist during their stay. Their medical condition is monitored closely," he says.

Most hospital are not equipped for these kinds of patients, Archer says.

"When you add a COVID diagnosis on top of a behavioral health diagnosis, historically there have been very few beds for those types of patients. These patients have been stuck in an ER or they were put on a medical unit where their COVID diagnosis could be monitored but there were few resources for their behavioral health diagnosis. Under those conditions, the patients' behavioral health condition worsened while they were inpatients receiving treatment for COVID. Our unit is equipped to address both issues simultaneously," he says.

Christopher Cheney is the senior clinical care​ editor at HealthLeaders.


KEY TAKEAWAYS

Most acute care hospitals and behavioral health hospitals are not equipped to treat both the mental health needs and medical needs of behavioral health patients with a COVID-19 diagnosis.

At the new behavioral health unit, patients are seen by both a medical doctor and a psychiatrist.

The new behavioral health unit has all of the infectious disease precautions that other COVID-19 units have such as personal protective equipment for staff.


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