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Pine Rest creates 'COVID-19 Psychiatric Unit' to alleviate strain on hospital systems

Contributing to the strain on hospital capacity in Michigan is finding placement for those in need of mental health care. Pine Rest is now able to treat both.

CUTLERVILLE, Mich. — Pine Rest Christian Mental Health Services is in the process of addressing an urgent statewide need by opening a new inpatient and residential psychiatric services unit for individuals with behavioral concerns who also have COVID-19.

The health organization struck up a partnership in 2020 with the State of Michigan to address the critical need stemming from surging hospitalizations and unprecedented demand for mental health services.

In mid-November, a rapid effort to renovate some existing space on Pine Rest's Cutlerville campus began. The Special Care Unit, complete with eight inpatient beds, opened December 21.

"If you have a serious psychiatric crisis, and you need inpatient care, then we needed to find a way to be able to provide that service in our community," said Heather Treib, who Pine Rest's director of operations for hospital and residential services. 

Contributing to the strain on capacity within many Michigan hospitals is the significant challenge of finding placement for individuals in need of psychiatric care who have also tested positive for COVID-19. 

"Very few behavioral health providers within the state are equipped to serve this particular population," said Treib. "Those requiring inpatient psychiatric care often remain in a general hospital setting throughout their treatment due to their COVID-19 diagnosis.

"By adding this unit, we feel we're able to alleviate the burden that continues to be placed on the hospitals."

Treib says the unit became operational quickly because the renovations were done to two existing spaces that were simply changed over from a previous service.

"We have an 8-bed unit that's full right now," said Treib. "Before the end of January, we will open 10 more Adult Foster Care beds, which will care for that next level of individuals.

Pine Rest is also in the process of developing two more 8-bed pods which will be opening sometime near the end of February, Treib said.

"On top of COVID-19, we're experiencing a mental health crisis, too," added Treib. "By being able to serve both of those at the same time, I think it's really special."

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