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On January 1, 2017, the KHI News Service became part of KCUR public radio’s new initiative, the Kansas News Service. The Kansas News Service will continue to cover health policy news and broaden its scope to include education and politics. All stories produced by the former KHI News Service are archived here. Stories and photos may be republished at no cost with proper attribution and a link back to KHI.org.

Truman Medical Centers shutting down behavioral health emergency department

By Dan Margolies, HEARTLAND HEALTH MONITOR | September 16, 2015

Truman Medical Centers shutting down behavioral health emergency department
Photo by Truman Medical Centers Truman Medical Centers has closed its behavioral health emergency department at its Hospital Hill site in Kansas City, Mo.

Truman Medical Centers said it is closing its Hospital Hill behavioral health emergency department in Kansas City, Mo., effective immediately and current patients will be transferred to the hospital’s inpatient facility or to another psychiatric facility.

Truman CEO Charlie Shields said in a telephone interview that the move came after state and federal regulators made it clear the department needed “to look and operate as if it’s an emergency department in a regular hospital, and that’s fairly challenging for us.”

“It’s challenging a little bit from a staffing side, but it’s also very challenging from a physical location side,” he said. “And we just made a decision that we need to condense and move our behavioral health emergency department, which is two streets and 500 yards away (from the regular emergency department), and move all those services in our larger emergency department here at Hospital Hill.”

Shields was referring to the hospital’s main Hospital Hill campus, at East 24th Street and Holmes Road.

The behavioral health unit provides mental health and substance abuse services to adults, adolescents and children. It has served approximately 30,000 patients in the last six years, Shields said.

He said that in order to continue operating the behavioral health emergency department as a standalone unit, Truman would have had to staff it 24/7 with physicians or nurse practitioners trained in emergency medicine.

“That,” he said, “is a fairly large hurdle in and of itself.”

Truman’s behavioral health emergency department has 12 beds. It was over-capacity with 14 patients when the hospital decided to shutter it, Shields said.

“Nothing really changes in the way they’re being treated,” he said. “We will assess them and they will either be admitted for inpatient psychiatric care if appropriate or discharged for outpatient psychiatric care if that’s appropriate.”

The closure does not affect patients currently in the inpatient unit at Hospital Hill or the one at Truman’s Lakewood location in Kansas City.

Truman operates a combined 66 inpatient beds at the two locations, 50 at Hospital Hill and 16 at Lakewood. It also operates two community mental health centers.

“So we have the ability to take care of these patients, but new patients will be seen in our emergency department at Hospital Hill,” Shields said.

Truman began operating the behavioral health emergency department and 50 adult inpatient beds in June 2009, when it took over Western Missouri Mental Health Center. The center had been operated by the state of Missouri.

Shields said Truman would work with the state mental health department and other community providers “to try to come up with a solution for folks that need that kind of care, people that are in crisis, to get them to the right level of care in something that’s fairly efficient.”