Health Care

Mercy Health to Open $10M Behavioral Health Ward

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – The Mahoning Valley is no different from the rest of the United States in treating mentally ill people — one in four adults suffer some form in any given year – with inadequate facilities for all those who need help.

St. Elizabeth Youngstown operates the sole inpatient behavioral health unit in Mahoning County and it has only 18 beds. But come January, that number of beds will grow to 38 when Mercy Health Youngstown opens the hospital’s expanded $10 million behavioral health ward.

“For the size of our population, we need many more beds,” said Donald Koenig, Mercy Health executive vice president and chief operating officer. “That’s why expansion to 38 beds here in Youngstown is going to help improve access to this critical health care need for so much of our population.” He made his remarks Thursday during a hardhat tour of the new ward.

The 38,000-square-foot unit is under construction on the seventh floor of the hospital, in space formerly occupied by the maternity ward. The maternity ward moved to St. Elizabeth Boardman in April 2014.

Of the 38 beds, 24 will serve adult and 14 by those 65 and older, Koenig said.

Mercy Health has hired about 40 additional staff for the unit, psychiatric nurses, counselors, social workers, therapists and psychiatrists, he said.

Renovation of the old maternity unit began March 1 and the unit is about 75 days from completion.

The institute will incorporate new evidence-based treatments not yet implemented in most psychiatric hospitals, Koenig said. One is called a Snoezlen Room, a smaller space with black walls and various fluorescent lights and chairs intended to create a calm, soothing environment.

Dr. Lisa Brandyberry, marketing director for program excellence, said these rooms are often used to treat autistic children. “We have found that it is also extremely effective with psychiatric patients in terms of calming down agitation, decreasing psychotic symptoms and basically soothing them a great many ways,” she said.

The geriatric section will also have a multi-sensory room that will be lighter, an environment designed to stimulate activity, thinking and movement. And exercise equipment and a library will be in the ward.

Brandyberry says the library will house books patients can read to learn more about their disorders. “A lot of people who come in here have been told they are bi-polar,” she said. “They don’t know exactly what that means. So when they leave here we want them to understand what’s going on with themselves.”

The institute will have special controls in the nurses’ station that allow the monitoring of water and electricity consumption.

“I like the controllability with the light fixtures and especially with the plumbing on these types of units,” said Jim Schneider, project manager with Danis Construction. “Say somebody puts a roll of toilet paper down the toilet to try to flood the room. They [nurses] have the ability to shut the water off from their desks so they can go tend to that and remedy that issue.”

Pictured: Don Koenig and Jim Schneider conduct the hard-hat tour.

Published by The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.