Amid high demand for psychiatric care services in Maryland, Sheppard Pratt opens new, specialized facility

Surrounded by trees and tall grass, infused with natural light and accented with a color palette of pale blues, greens and yellows, Sheppard Pratt’s new psychiatric care facility in Elkridge seeks to personalize and refine how the provider delivers behavioral and mental health services in the state.

The $112 million, 156,000-square-foot building includes 85 licensed and staffed beds, about five more than Sheppard Pratt’s Ellicott City campus it will replace by the end of the month, said CEO and president Dr. Harsh K. Trivedi in a Tuesday interview. The new campus includes more square footage and more private rooms, functionally expanding Sheppard Pratt’s capacity by about 20 or 25 beds, he added.


It also increases the state’s availability of outpatient mental health services, day programs and walk-in psychiatric urgent care, which tend to be high in demand but difficult to find in Maryland and elsewhere, research shows.

Strategically situated in Elkridge — about 15 minutes away from BWI Marshall Airport, and between Baltimore and Washington, D.C. — the sleek, state-of-the-art space aims to reaffirm Sheppard Pratt as the top private psychiatric care provider in the state and the region, Trivedi said.


Its opening coincides with the need for more behavioral and mental health treatment options, as state psychiatric bed capacity remains almost completely full and more people seek help for the stress and trauma of the coronavirus pandemic.

But Trivedi said the addition of more beds only goes so far.

“We’ve definitely seen an increase in terms of people needing access to services,” Trivedi said. “There are more beds needed; however, a general bed doesn’t work. If we built 12 general beds in this county or that county, it doesn’t solve the problem.

“It’s about having the right continuum of services for what people need and services that are specific to the problems people have.”

State-run psychiatric facilities typically operate at or near full capacity. But Maryland’s private behavioral health providers say they are concerned about higher volumes of patients seeking treatment in other settings. Prolonged social isolation, grief, job insecurity, lapses in substance abuse, elimination of in-person support services and domestic violence are driving the increased demand for care, they said.

“There’s no reason to think we’re in a better place now than we were 15 months ago,” said Luke Kalb, a public health researcher and director of the informatics program at Kennedy Krieger’s Center for Autism and Related Disorders. “We know there were mental health impacts. As we emerge out of the pandemic, we’ll see the effects of that.”

A new study authored by Kalb shows a lack of crisis services offered by psychiatric care facilities. Nearly 43% of the nation’s mental health institutions did not offer walk-in crisis services or crisis intervention teams, and 33% offered only one of the two.

Kalb said Sheppard Pratt’s new walk-in urgent care clinic would be valuable to the Baltimore region.


“Having places like that is really critical,” he said.

Sheppard Pratt, which operates out of campuses in Towson and Ellicott City, saw demand for inpatient care dip in the early months of the pandemic as fears about the virus and uncertainty about its infectiousness kept people away from hospital settings. But gradually, those numbers rebounded and remain high still.

The psychiatric care provider has administered more than 500,000 virtual appointments since the start of the pandemic and has no plans to scale down that service.

The state’s largest private, nonprofit psychiatric provider has more than 300 staffed beds at its two facilities. But the Baltimore County campus is far larger than the Howard County one, and until now, offered a wider array of services for more people, including children and adolescents.

Roe Rodgers-Bonaccorsy, director of the bureau of behavioral health at the Howard County Health Department, said the new campus would help fill in the gaps in psychiatric care not just in the county but also the state.

“With the COVID pandemic, there’s increased mental health concerns and challenges for the community, so this will greatly impact those in need, with trauma and anxiety,” she said.


The county already offers a range of mental and behavioral health campaigns and programs, including a navigation service that connects people with treatment options. Rodgers-Bonaccorsy said Sheppard Pratt’s psychiatric urgent care center would bolster the county’s offerings.

“On-demand service is a gap,” she said. “That’s the key thing that would be very supportive for the community.”

The Elkridge facility, built to serve people from around the state as well as national or international patients, features a psychiatric urgent care unit for walk-in appointments, which the Ellicott City campus lacked; inpatient units for adolescents, young adults, adults and people with co-occurring disorders or mood disorders; and outpatient programs for people with eating disorders, thought disorders, mood disorders, and child and adolescent mental health services.

The young-adult unit is new to Howard County, and the Ellicott City campus previously offered only a one day-hospital program for adults.

The facility also includes a gymnasium, a screened-in “porch,” enclosed courtyard and space for one-on-one therapy as well as group therapy and activities.

The range of services provided, especially the day programs and intensive outpatient therapies, could help people avoid costly stays in hospitals, Trivedi said, and place them at the appropriate point of treatment faster. It also centralizes the services Sheppard Pratt provides under one roof.


“What we’ve learned over the years is, people need space in order to work on their issues,” he said. “So, literally, this facility is about three times the size of Ellicott City, because people need that just to unpack their problems and get to a better place.”

The new facility breaks with the Gothic style of architecture that characterizes Sheppard Pratt’s other campuses, Trivedi said, in the hopes that visitors and patient can feel more relaxed during their stays.

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He also said he hopes the new, modernized space resonates with staff.

“As much as it’s a building, we know fundamentally that the care is provided by people,” Trivedi said. “Particularly post-COVID, you think about burnout and resiliency among health care workers. This is designed to be a very different space.”

Sheppard Pratt, like most other medical centers and hospitals, has been dealing with a shortage of nurses and other clinical personnel over the course of the public health crisis, chief medical officer Dr. Todd Peters said earlier this month. The national shortfall, which existed pre-pandemic, may have been exacerbated given the physical demands associated with front-line jobs over the last 16 months.

“We actually are sometimes using the same pool of resources that hospitals utilize,” Peters said. “Nurses were already in short supply, and with the ongoing pandemic and the shift in the workforce, people are having to make decisions. Maybe they’re aging out or they’re wanting to stay home with their children, or they’re going and manning vaccination clinics.


“You’re dealing with this on a nationwide level.”

In all, the new campus will add 300 jobs to Howard County, spokeswoman Tamara L. Chumley said, which includes clinical and nonclinical personnel. Staff additions will be phased in over time.

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline’s toll-free number is 1-800-273-TALK(8255).