Highlands Hospital Serving Several Counties With Renovated Behavior Health Unit

Highlands Hospital Ribbon Cutting

Officials with Highlands Hospital unveiled their newly renovated Extended Acute Care Behavioral Health Unit about three months ago, and hospital Chief Executive Officer John Andursky said things are going well.

“We have room for 14 extended stay patients and right now we have one that is currently using our facilities,” he said. “It opened relatively quickly, but it’s a slow process because it’s through planned admissions.

“Unlike the acute care unit where an individual comes to us for immediate care and stays three to five days, there is a process a patient has to go through to be part of the extended stay unit, which usually is a stay anywhere from 30 to 90 days,” Andursky added.

The program is under the direction of Dr. Ryan J. Wakim and is managed by Susan Mongell, director of behavioral health services. The unit consists of 14 beds, including four private rooms and five semi-private rooms.

The Westmoreland Behavioral Health Administration as well as Beacon Health provided the grant funds for the renovation because of the needs in both Fayette and Westmoreland counties and other surrounding counties and Highlands responded to the administration’s search to create the extended stay unit.

“The extended stay unit (which they named the Serenity unit and is on the third floor) was a former med/surg unit that was underutilized,” Androsky said. “They (Westmoreland Behavioral Health Administration) provided the grant funds for the project because of the needs in Fayette and Westmoreland counties, but we actually have contracts with a multitude of different counties in this region.”

It is the only extended acute care behavioral health treatment center in the county and actually takes a holistic approach to healing the mind, body and soul of all patients, he said.

Androsky said they’re grateful for the grant funding to provide the needed facilities in the area for extended stay behavioral care.

“There is definitely a shortage of extended acute care beds in the region,” he said. “It could be a matter of clinically determined services related to the needs of the patients, but I feel it’s mostly due to the fact that there are fewer and fewer providers.”

Andursky added that extended acute care is insured.

“It’s a recognized service by providers kind of like skilled nursing is a recognized service on the physical side,” he said.

“The renovated unit has a warm, welcoming and relaxed feel from the moment you step through the door,” said Mongell. “Patients will experience healing modalities such as drum circles, music therapy and art therapy.

“Concentration on making a smooth transition back to daily life and meeting specific needs at this point in their lives is a big part of the treatment,” she added.

Andursky said this approach provides transitional services for individuals who will benefit from a longer length of stay than acute inpatient behavioral health hospitalization, and as for the holistic approach, he thinks more and more providers are seeing the benefits of this approach.

“We are proud to offer this holistic approach that helps the patient feel at home while keeping a safe environment for their treatment,” he said.

By Rachel Basinger, [email protected]