Like all of America’s hospitals, Tidelands Health has a longstanding commitment to improving access to high-quality, affordable services. This includes treatment for psychiatric and substance use disorders, commonly referred to has behavioral health disorders. These disorders affect nearly 1 in 5 Americans, with less than half of the adults receiving treatment. Yet, Tidelands is one of the approximately 45% of U.S. hospitals and health systems that currently does not have inpatient behavioral health services or onsite trained behavioral health clinicians. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t find a way to address the needs of these patients.

As the only provider for our immediate region, we know behavioral patients will need our emergency departments and other services. We need to be prepared to provide these patients a safe place to receive care and an effective path to the treatment they need. We also must provide a safe and secure environment for our ED staff and other ED patients. Behavioral health patients can also at times pose a risk for violent and disruptive behavior in the ED, which prevents a safe and effective setting for the behavioral patient, other acute patients and our staff. 

I encourage you to listen to the three podcasts released earlier this month, each describing an initiative that improves access to needed behavioral health services – without any inpatient behavioral health services or onsite behavioral health staff.

One podcast describes our community health resource team’s work focused on the state’s healthy outcome program (HOP), which strengthens the connections between Tidelands Health, local mental health agencies and community mental health centers, as well as our participation in a Georgetown County Collaborative of key stakeholder agencies committed to improving access to behavioral health services for our community.

Another podcast describes how we took an existing space adjacent to an ED in one of our hospitals and created a secure unit specifically designed for behavioral health patients. We also talk about our participation with the South Carolina Department of Mental Health telehealth collaborative for emergency department patients and additionally our participation with the Medical University of South Carolina for routine telepsychiatry consults for hospitals and physician practices.

The third podcast describes how Tidelands Health employed peer support specialists – individuals successful in their recovery process who help others experiencing similar situations – and patient navigators.

While we haven’t solved all the problems with access to behavioral health services, I hope that you find these podcasts helpful and provide inspiration and practical steps to improving access to behavioral health services in your community. AHA’s vision is a society of healthy communities, where all individuals reach their highest potential for health. As Dr. Brock Chisholm, the first director-general of the World Health Organization, famously stated, “Without mental health there can be no true physical health.”

Bruce Bailey is president and CEO of Tidelands Health, based in Georgetown, S.C.

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