Kansas mental health facilities strained by workforce shortages

WICHITA, Kan. (KWCH) -As demand for mental health resources has increased during the COVID-19 pandemic, providers are facing stressful situations as they try to meet the needs of a growing number of patients while doing facing labor shortages.

Last week, Robyn Chadwick, president of Ascension Via Christi St. Joseph, detailed to Kansas lawmakers what hospital staff are going through and how the state can help.

The place with the most pronounced challenges is inside St. Joseph’s emergency room. The emergency entrance accommodates many behavioral health patients, in addition to those in need of medical attention.

Chadwick said emergency room overcrowding is a major cause of why hospital staff are facing incidents of violence.

“Am I going to get kicked or punched or punched or am I going to watch one of my colleagues get hurt today?” said Chadwick.

The Via Christi St. Joseph Ascension Emergency has 29 beds.

“Over the past few years, the volume has increased so much that we now need 49 rooms to really be able to provide safe care,” Chadwick said.

Across the health sector, mental health care providers face some of the most pronounced labor shortages seen in the health sector.

“We see about 600 patients a month who come to St. Joe’s ER for a mental health crisis. It really burdens our staff and pushes us to gain space,” Chadwick said.

Chadwick said she is awaiting a response from the state after requesting $22 million in ARPA funds to expand St Joseph’s ER to 49 rooms to better care for medical and behavioral health patients.

“More space and no patients and staff stacked on top of each other; it will really help with incidents of violence,” she said.

Although the emergency room is the front line for mental health care, it is not the last place where we see the growing need for mental health. Saint-Joseph has 101 hospital beds, most of which are reserved for adults. Chadwick said they were operating at 95% occupancy.

“It is not at all unusual in our emergency department to have 10 to 20 more patients who are here for a behavioral health crisis and waiting to be admitted to our inpatient unit,” a- she declared.

Chadwick said a state psychiatric hospital built in Sedgwick County would be one of the best ways to meet the growing demand for mental health care and serve patients who need a higher level of care. raised.

“Having those 11 to 12 patients a month who could benefit from state care is just another contributing factor to the overcrowding in both our emergency rooms and the high utilization of our inpatient beds,” he said. she declared.

The state budget this year included partial funds for a 50-bed psychiatric hospital in Sedgwick County. Chadwick said vendors also need help from state lawmakers to meet certain labor needs to ensure the necessary personnel are there to run the facility.

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