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University of Maryland Medical Center Midtown Campus upgrades behavioral health care unit

Almost a year after an embarrassing patient-dumping incident, the University of Maryland Medical Center Midtown Campus announced an overhaul of its behavioral health unit so it can see more patients arriving in crisis at the Baltimore hospital.

The move consolidates services between the midtown campus and the medical center’s nearby downtown campus, with admissions expected to rise at the former and drop at the latter.

The hospitals join others in Maryland in working to improve services for acute mental health and substance use problems and even longer-term treatment as patients flood emergency rooms seeking help.

Hospital data has shown that even as emergency room visits to Maryland hospitals fell 8 percent from 2013 to 2016, the number of patients with behavioral health problems jumped 18.5 percent and now make up about a quarter of all emergency visits.

A year ago officials from the University of Maryland Medical Center Midtown campus came under intense scrutiny when a passerby filmed video of workers from the emergency room leaving a patient suffering a mental health crisis at a bus stop wearing a hospital gown and socks. Hospital officials quickly apologized and, a few months later, federal regulators cited the hospital for violating patient rights and several patient safety and hospital management regulations. Hospital executives said they took corrective action.

Hospital president Alison Brown said planning and design of the behavioral health unit began more than two years ago and is unrelated to that case.

The new state-of-the-art space is twice as big and will have 37 beds, up from 28, and will admit patients from both the midtown and downtown campuses, though patients will still be admitted downtown. Officials did not say whether the number of mental health beds at the downtown campus was being reduced.

The new private rooms feature original, hand-painted murals from local artists offered through a partnership with the Baltimore Office of Promotion & Arts.

“Addressing mental health needs is vital to improving the overall health of our city and the region,” said Dr. Mohan Suntha, president and CEO of the University of Maryland Medical Center. “This new behavioral health unit allows us to consolidate comprehensive adult behavioral health services from across both our campuses, giving patients access to compassionate, world-class care by school of medicine faculty, as they navigate their complex mental health challenges.”

The hospital also plans to move and upgrade its “day hospital” that will provide transitional care to people discharged from the inpatient unit or for people who do not need to be admitted but are suffering from psychiatric symptoms. It is expected to relocate from the downtown campus and open at the midtown campus in the spring with room for 20 patients, up from 12.

“It is important that people with acute behavioral health disorders are in a place where they feel comfortable and safe in order to best receive and respond to care,” said Dr. Stephanie Knight, assistant professor of psychiatry at the University of Maryland School of Medicine and chief of psychiatry at the Midtown Campus, in a statement. “Patients will benefit from the healing environment that this beautiful new unit represents and from the care provided by our multidisciplinary team of health care professionals who are highly trained and dedicated to the people we serve.”

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