Loveland’s McKee Medical Center adds inpatient psychiatric unit for seniors

Tuesday, December 17, 2019

Seventeen-bed behavioral health facility to open Dec. 26.

By Craig Young | cyoung@reporter-herald.com | Loveland Reporter-Herald, December 14, 2019

The emergency rooms in Banner Health’s three Northern Colorado hospitals treated more than 1,600 people experiencing mental-health crises in 2017, and the medical staffs had to transfer those patients to psychiatric facilities, usually out of the area.

Now Banner’s McKee Medical Center in Loveland will be able to take in those patients age 55 and older, with the anticipated opening Dec. 26 of its new 17-bed behavioral health inpatient unit for seniors.

“There has been a shortage of behavioral health beds for quite a while across the state, particularly in this age group. We had a desire to meet that need,” said Shelly Cox, Banner’s behavioral health services director in Colorado. Wendy Sparks, chief operating officer for the Banner hospitals in Loveland, Greeley and Fort Collins, said people with psychiatric crises benefit from being treated close to home.

“We think it’s important to provide this service to people in the community where they live,” she said. “In our emergency departments, with this population, we’re having to transfer them out of Northern Colorado.” Cox added that it’s difficult for families to travel to Denver or beyond to visit hospitalized loved ones. That family connection is “an integral part” of the patients’ recovery, she said.

Psychiatric crises
People who come into a hospital’s emergency department exhibiting psychiatric symptoms such as depression, anxiety, schizophrenia, panic disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder or psychosis first are assessed by the medical staff to make sure there isn’t a physical reason for the symptoms, Cox said. If the person is cleared for physical problems, an “assessment and referral team” will do an assessment and make a recommendation for placement, she said. Until that person can be placed in an appropriate psychiatric facility, treatment can’t begin, she said.

Peter Snyder, senior behavioral health services director who has overseen the renovation for the inpatient unit, said “the emergency department is not a calming environment. … It exacerbates people’s problems.” Snyder came on board with McKee in early September. He said he’s pleased with the progress on the unit, which is almost finished.  

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