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Healthcare providers seek to shift mental health patients from the emergency department to a less clinical setting

By 2019, New York-based health system Ellis Medicine’s mental health clinic plans to unveil a new outpatient treatment facility that blends the clinical resources of a hospital with the relaxed, less-clinical setting of a community program. The initiative’s first year will be funded by a $420,000 grant from the Alliance for Better Health.

  • While the majority of these “living room” programs are financed through donations and grants, officials will evaluate the Ellis program to determine if it could become a billable service from public and private insurance under a value-based payment model
  • The Ellis program plans to operate from noon to 8 p.m. and serve a maximum of eight patients a day, totaling 1,500 visits per year. It will be staffed with a nurse practitioner, a mental health clinician, a case manager and peer specialists from a local rehabilitation services provider
  • A similar program in an Illinois community led 93 percent of mental health patients to visit the new community program rather than the emergency department (ED), saving the state $550,000, according to a 2013 study in the Global Journal of Community Psychology Practice

Mental health experts have argued the chaotic nature of EDs can often worsen mental health patients’ anxiety, yet it is often the only resource available. A 2017 report from the Treatment Advocacy Center estimated 800,000 ED visits occur each year involving a patient with symptoms of schizophrenia, and approximately 1.5 million visits involve individuals experiencing issues concerning a mood disorder.

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