Continuing to act on its mission to support comprehensive behavioral health services across South Central Pennsylvania, WellSpan Health announces two projects that will expand access to patients seeking this essential care. WellSpan Philhaven teams across the region annually serve 64,000 patients with behavioral health needs across WellSpan’s six counties. In order to meet the growing demand for services, more than $30 million will be invested at both the WellSpan Philhaven campus in Mt. Gretna and the WellSpan York Hospital campus in York as part of this effort.
“As a trusted partner in our communities, expanding access to this care underscores our promise to address the challenges facing so many of our neighbors,” said Mantha Kotsalos, interim president for WellSpan Philhaven. “It is no secret that the COVID-19 pandemic, coupled with a nationwide shortage of health care professionals has created a mental health crisis, but it is one we will face head on with the resources of one of the largest behavioral health programs in the country.”
One in five adults experience a mental illness, yet fewer than half of those with a mental health condition receive treatment, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. Locally, WellSpan Health has seen a 30 percent increase in behavioral health patients this year compared to the same timeframe in 2021.
Often patients in need of behavioral health services turn to emergency departments for care. Over the past three years, WellSpan has had a 100 percent increase in behavioral health visits at its emergency departments.
To address these increases, WellSpan Health has launched several initiatives to address rising behavioral health needs across south central Pennsylvania, including innovative programs, community partnerships, and renovation projects. Renovations at WellSpan Philhaven involve expanding the adult inpatient unit and relocating some outpatient offices at the campus. The expansion project is expected to be complete early next year and expand capacity at the hospital by 24 inpatient beds. WellSpan Philhaven is South Central Pennsylvania’s most comprehensive behavioral health organization with more than 50 programs offered at 27 care locations.
WellSpan York Hospital’s behavioral health unit also will undergo an innovative transformation as part of the WellSpan York Hospital Expansion project. This new area will provide care teams and patients with a modernized, state-of-the-art environment. The unit will offer acute, medical, sub-acute and step-down pods, dedicated serenity spaces and seclusion spaces, as well as private and group therapy spaces.
Right Care at the Right Place
Addressing mental health concerns often requires care at the right place.
WellSpan Health’s innovative START Clinic in York has helped more than 1,500 people since opening its doors in 2021, often offering same day appointments for care to patients that otherwise may end in the emergency department.
WellSpan START (Specialized Treatment and Recovery Team) provides a truly integrated care experience for patients with urgent mental health and addiction needs that offers them the resources and services they need in an appropriate setting, reducing trips to the emergency department.
A diverse team of clinicians at the one-stop clinic works in close partnership with the Community Action for Recovery & Diversion project to get patients the care they need in an appropriate setting.
“Of the 8,500 visits at START over the past two years, 1,900 were at times and during situations where the Emergency Department would have been utilized previously. Providing the right care in the right place at the right time leads to better outcomes for patients, and it provides a better patient experience. We are able to make connections and help our community members get on the road to recovery more quickly,” said Dr. Mitchell Crawford, medical director of the START Clinic and director of Addiction Services for WellSpan Health.
WellSpan also is expanding its addiction medicine programs to address a sharp increase in demand. In the past three years, more than 2,000 patients have been treated for opioid-abuse and these programs offer patients the care and support they need with many seeing meaningful improvements due to the ways in which the program surrounds the patient with needed support.
In Franklin County, WellSpan’s recovery specialists and WellSpan Medication-assisted Treatment (MAT) clinics work with the Single County Authority to support individuals in the community with substance use disorders. This summer, WellSpan’s recovery specialists and the Behavioral Health practice in Chambersburg began providing MAT to individuals with opioid use disorder and co-occurring mental health needs.
In addition to the START Clinic, WellSpan has added behavioral health consultants in emergency departments to help patients receive care more efficiently. This has improved the time to connect patients with behavioral health programs and more quickly get them the care needed. This service recently expanded to add behavioral health consultants at WellSpan hospitals in Gettysburg, Chambersburg and Waynesboro.
Other community partnerships also are working to get patients the help they need before they arrive at the emergency department. WellSpan has partnered with the York City Police Department to have crisis workers assist with responding to calls for individuals experiencing a mental health crisis. Additionally, we have partnered with Keystone Health to provide crisis intervention services in Chambersburg and Waynesboro.
The growing demand for behavioral health services also is increasing among children and WellSpan has made dedicated efforts to address needs of younger patients. For example, more than 100 patients utilizing the START Clinic have been children and adolescents.
WellSpan’s community based intensive behavioral health services for children (IBHS) serves younger patients with a mental health diagnosis who need additional support and skill building to be successful in the home, school and community settings. IBHS provides individual services, including mobile therapy and Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA), to more than a dozen different schools in York County.
Additionally, WellSpan offers family-based services for children and their families in schools, social and emotional groups, ABA social skills groups, and ABA transition age groups. We continue to expand additional services and partnerships with school districts, including therapists in schools, mobile crisis co-responders, and telephone crisis support for guidance counselors. These various programs are providing behavioral health services to hundreds of children and WellSpan continues to add therapists and counselors to expand these programs and make them available to more school districts.
Addressing Staffing Challenges
WellSpan Health has added behavioral health professionals to meet the rising needs of our community. However, our system continues to address healthcare staffing challenges, especially in terms of behavioral health. Earlier this year, WellSpan partnered with the state Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs to highlight an initiative that would help some addiction professionals repay their student loans with a commitment to continue working in this important field here in Pennsylvania. $10M was made available to qualified individuals.
WellSpan Health will continue to respond to this mental health crisis through innovative programs such as the START Clinic, behavioral health consultants in emergency departments, crisis worker partnerships with police departments, and expanded access, but we know that more needs to be done. Our commitment is to support healthy communities. To learn more, visit https://www.wellspanphilhaven.org.
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