North Adams Regional Hospital (NARH) proposed closing its psychiatric unit, housed in Greylock Pavilion, for financial reasons. This was met with opposition from the North Adams community.
According to the iBerkshires article “Nurses, Patients Take Stand Against Psych Unit Closure,” Director of Finance Larry Taft stated that the hospital has approximately 20 days worth of cash available at any given time, whereas healthy hospitals have closer to 100 days worth of cash. He warned that unless steps, such as closing the psychiatric unit, are taken, “it won’t be about closing one unit, it will be about closing all of the units.”
North Adams community members objected to the potential closure of the facility, noting the valuable service it provides to patients and the ramifications of closing, which would force families to seek care elsewhere and burden emergency rooms with the responsibility of aiding mentally unstable patients.
A recent public hearing was held by the Department of Public Health and was attended by almost 150 people. Attendees included nurses and mental health workers who detailed the consequences of closing Greylock Pavilion.
Nurse Susan Revotskie explained that “there is no place more inappropriate for a psychiatric patient in crisis than the ER.” Members of the community stressed the importance of having a nearby mental health resource for patients, who otherwise will have to drive to places like Pittsfield for care.
The hospital will be providing increased outpatient services by working with both the Berkshire Medical Center and the Brien Center in Pittsfield and treating patients in critical mental condition in the emergency room.
The situation presents a dilemma with no clear solution. If the hospital continues to fund the psychiatric unit, it risks becoming increasingly financially unsound, but if it does not fund the unit it will leave patients in need without convenient access to mental care.
Psychiatric care has become an especially important topic in the U.S. The need to improve the mental health care system is well established, but as this case demonstrates, balancing the need for care with available funds is difficult.
The community is currently trying to raise awareness regarding lack of funding for important facilities like the psychiatric unit at NARH, hoping to initiate meaningful change regarding the structuring of the mental health care system.