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Valley West Hospital Renovates Emergency Room to Respond to Mental Health Needs

In response to the growing need for emergency mental health services, Northwestern Medicine Valley West Hospital in Sandwich, Illinois, recently completed a renovation of the emergency department to create a designated behavioral health treatment area.

Two emergency room treatment bays were redesigned to promote safety for patients and staff. When a bay is being used for a behavioral health patient, an overhead door will be lowered to ensure the patient is protected from any equipment that could be used to cause self-harm. Special doors were added that can never be barricaded by a patient from the inside.

Anti-ligature fixtures, which rNorthwestern Medicine Valley West Hospital renovates two emergency room bays with features to make them more safe for behavioral health patientseduce the risk of self-harm through strangulation, were installed in the rooms. Fixtures include blinds that are integrated into the glass and cannot be tampered with from inside the room. Staff control the blinds from outside the room to ensure visibility when needed.

“Many emergency departments throughout the country have seen an increase in their behavioral health patient population, and Northwestern Medicine Valley West Hospital is no different. These patients may present to the hospital with a risk of self-harm or harm to others,” said Beth Mosher, MSN, APRN, FNP-C, director of Clinical & Administrative Operations at Northwestern Medicine Valley West Hospital. “This project is a great example of how we are bringing world-class behavioral health care close to home for our community.”

In addition to the physical remodel, Valley West also has access to behavioral health specialists via tele-medicine where patients can be seen by a psychiatrist during their emergency department visit.

According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI)*, one in five adults in America experience a mental illness in a given year. Rural residents face the added challenges of often having to travel longer distances for mental health services, and according to the Rural Health Information Hub* are less likely to recognize a mental illness or accept mental healthcare.

“Access and appropriate accommodations have become even more urgent as demand for behavioral services has increased during the coronavirus pandemic,” said Jay Anderson, president of Northwestern Medicine Kishwaukee and Valley West Hospitals. “These new emergency room renovations complement the comprehensive emotional and mental health services Northwestern Medicine provides to the community.”

A report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention* found that more than 40-percent of U.S. adults reported struggling with mental health or substance abuse during the COVID-19 pandemic. The study found the prevalence of symptoms of anxiety disorder was approximately three times those reported during the same time period in 2019 and prevalence of depressive disorder was approximately four times that reported in the second quarter of 2019.

Northwestern Medicine offers evaluations and treatments for a full range of behavioral health disorders in adolescents, teens and adults. Specialists provide research-based treatments, care that’s tailored to individual needs, one-on-one therapy and family involvement in the treatment process.

Learn more about Behavioral Health Services at Northwestern Medicine