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Mental Health Matters: Riverside Health System set to create new psychiatric emergency department

The facility will be the first of its kind for the region.

HAMPTON, Va. — Riverside Health System announced on Tuesday that it will be introducing a new option for behavioral health in Hampton Roads. 

A psychiatric emergency department is set to open at Riverside's Behavioral Health Center campus in Hampton in 2023, which will create a more thorough type of intervention for people who come to the hospital with mental health emergencies. 

It's the first of its kind in the area, according to Riverside Health.

“When facing a mental health crisis, many people are unsure of where to go, which often leads them to law enforcement or a traditional ER setting. While both provide the best support they can, we recognize our community needs more personalized, compassionate mental health care,” said Stacey Johnson, the executive director for Riverside Behavioral Health Center. 

She added, “With 24/7 access to a psychiatric-specific emergency department, the community will have greater access to fully integrated, whole-person care during their time of greatest need. We are proud to be another healing hand for our community to grow stronger.”

Johnson said the sheer number of visits to Riverside's emergency department by people in a mental health crisis helped hospital leaders realize they need a separate emergency department that specializes in mental health.

“We did see an influx in our psychiatric patients in the emergency department," she said. “[In] the last year, about 1,700 patients arrived in our emergency department that needed in-patient psychiatric treatment. So if we add all the individuals that didn’t require that intense level of care. It’s much higher.”   

Annually across the country, mental health crises represent an average of 13.2 million emergency department visits. But not all emergency departments have the proper resources to treat the issues. 

“Psychiatric emergency departments or urgent care clinics that specialize in mental and behavioral health are really becoming much more popular nationally,” Johnson said. “General emergency departments are very stimulating. When folks are in mental health crisis a de-stimulating environment is oftentimes what’s most advantageous.”  

This new addition will allow for specialized services for Virginians through in-depth assessments that can address both short-term and long-term needs. 

"The physical and mental well-being of our community is at the heart of every decision we make," said Dr. Ryan McQueen, the chief medical director for Riverside Behavioral Health Center. "It’s a part of our continued mission to care for others as we would care for those we love... to enhance their well-being and improve their health. That is why we are expanding the community’s access to empathy during difficult moments. 

"We are proud to evolve our services to ensure we are there for our patients during every step of their path to recovery and look forward to the positive impact these new resources will have on the community’s health and wellness.”

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