Trinity Health Foundation launches embedded psychiatry program with research grant

In June, the Trinity Health Foundation of East Tennessee allocated a $15,000 grant to the Helen Ross McNabb Foundation to research embedding, or integrating, behavioral health medical professionals into East Tennessee emergency rooms.

Behavioral health services in emergency departments have been identified as a need locally and nationally. According to the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, one of every eight emergency room visits consists of a mental health and/or a substance use condition.

“This grant will allow the Helen Ross McNabb Center to further understand how to best care for psychiatric patients in an emergency room setting,” said Jerry Vagnier, Helen Ross McNabb Center’s president and CEO. “It is imperative we, as health care providers, are knowledgeable on the greatest way to provide treatment to our clients, as a large percentage of the population is affected by mental illness.”

Trinity was founded as a supporting organization of the East Tennessee Foundation. Its mission is to understand the key health needs of the community while supporting collaboration through project grants to nonprofit organizations in our region. Trinity annually seeks Requests for Proposals from regional nonprofits.

The grant is for Phase l of Trinity Health Foundation’s grant cycle. Trinity awards nine to 15 Phase I Planning Grants ranging from $5,000-$15,000. The Phase l Grants allow recipients to further research around the ideas submitted, define specific milestones for project implementation and create a detailed budget for the Phase ll Grant proposal.

The grant will allow the Helen Ross McNabb Center to visit one of the nation’s leading psychiatric emergency departments, Connections Urgent Psychiatric Care Center (UPC) in Phoenix, Arizona, with representatives from East Tennessee Children’s Hospital and the University of Tennessee Medical Center. On the research trip to Phoenix, the team will determine the best practices to implement specialized psychiatric care in East Tennessee emergency departments.

Connections UPC serves patients who need immediate psychiatric care. UPC addresses the issues of waiting hours at the emergency room or waiting weeks to get an appointment with a psychiatrist. It provides same-day access to psychiatric evaluation, medication management and social work services. With UPC’s care model, patients can see a doctor and a social worker in two hours on average.

For patients in need of more intensive treatment and stabilization in a safe and secure environment, UPC has an observation unit. The average length of stay in this unit is about 24 hours. After an overnight stay, most patients (60-70 percent) are stable and able to return home. UPC also has a short-term inpatient unit for people who need additional days of treatment. The average length of inpatient stay is three to five days. For patients needing longer-term care, UPC arranges transfer to a psychiatric hospital.

“Our goal is to make emergency healthcare services more accessible for those who need psychiatric care and implement policies that support the patients,” said Leann Hilliard, Helen Ross McNabb Center’s regional clinical vice president. “Poor understanding of mental health often leaves those who need health care waiting longer for treatment than other patients and receiving inadequate care. We want to change that.”

Trinity’s Phase I Grant is the first step for the Center and East Tennessee hospitals to meet identified behavioral health service needs in emergency rooms in the community. 

`