Leaders of local mental health treatment programs say Aultman Hospital’s decision to close its psychiatric unit creates a gap in the behavioral health care available in the community.

Earlier this month, Aultman closed its inpatient psychiatric unit, citing a drop in the number of patients treated there and changes in government regulations.

Plans call for Aultman to work in the emergency department or through outpatient programs to treat patients experiencing behavioral health issues.

That means most patients who need inpatient hospital care for a behavioral health issue likely will be transferred to a hospital outside Stark County.

The change creates a challenge with providing continuity of care, said John Aller, executive director of Stark County Mental Health & Addiction Recovery.

The agency and Coleman Professional Services work together to provide a variety of mental health and addiction services in the community.

“In your arsenal, you need inpatient care,” said Nelson Burns, chief executive officer of Coleman Professional Services.

Coleman manages the crisis intervention center at 2421 13th St. NW in Canton. The facility provides behavioral health patients a place to stay, but the center is voluntary. While the facility has nurses on staff and can arrange for patients to meet with a psychiatrist, there are no medical services.

The crisis beds help, but they aren’t a substitute for the inpatient care some patients need, Burns said.

Aller said the crisis center is designed to help a behavioral health patient get back into the community. But it’s possible some crisis center patients will need to move to a hospital psychiatric unit. Patients without insurance can move to Heartland Behavioral Healthcare in Massillon; patients with insurance likely will go to a facility in another county.

Stark Mental Health & Addiction Recovery and Coleman operate mobile response teams on call and available for patients. The teams specialize in treating adults or youths, and can connect patients to other ongoing treatment programs. The mobile units become more important now that Aultman has closed its psychiatric care unit, said Michelle Boone, Stark Mental Health director of clinical services.

Aller and Boone said they hope behavioral health patients will use the mobile response teams, which can be reached through a a 24-hour hotline, 330-452-6000.

It’s important that behavioral health patients are seen by professionals and assessed in order to place them in effective treatment, Burns said. There is a good system in place to help patients, he said.

Aller and Burns said health care agencies need to continue talking and reviewing the situation to provide services patients need.

“Our responsibility is to make sure clients have access to services, and that’s what we’re doing,” Aller said.

 

Reach Edd Pritchard at 330-580-8484 or edd.pritchard@cantonrep.com