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New State/Private Bed Board Pilot Program Works to Cut ER Wait Times For Patients With Mental Illness or Substance Abuse Issues

For release: Immediate    September 12, 2011
Contact: Mark Van Sciver (919) 855-4840

RALEIGH – Time is everything when a person or family member is experiencing a mental health or substance abuse crisis requiring hospitalization.

Thanks to a pilot web-based program designed by staff at Walter B. Jones Alcohol and Drug Abuse Treatment Center (ADATC), Greenville; participating hospitals and local management entities (LMEs) in eastern North Carolina now have immediate access to a website that lists available psychiatric and substance abuse treatment beds in real time. The project is a cooperative effort between the state and the North Carolina Hospital Association (NCHA).

According to Luckey Welsh, director of the Division of State Operated Healthcare Facilities, the pilot “bed board” is a real-time web application representing openings at 16 facilities with more than 650 behavioral health and substance abuse beds in the 38 counties in the eastern region. The bed board site became operational on June 13.

“This bed board is a leap forward in our approach to reducing wait times for people needing mental illness or substance abuse treatment,” Welsh said. “We believe that this cooperative partnership underscores a key component of Gov. Bev Perdue’s agenda directing state agencies to work more efficiently to better our service delivery to the people of North Carolina. The Governor has championed the mental health system throughout her administration and pushed hard for increasing funds to our MH/DD/SAS system despite tough economic times. Her vision of building bridges between the public and private hospitals and providers made projects like this one not just possible, but inevitable.

“Our hope is that all agencies that make referrals will be able to use this tool to more quickly identify mental health or substance abuse treatment beds and make referrals. Eventually, we hope that by continuing our partnership with the North Carolina Hospital Association, we can take this system statewide.”

Theresa Edmondson, director of the Walter B. Jones ADATC, initially proposed the bed board concept and together with David Jackson, with the ADATC’s information technology section, developed the prototype program that NCHA then developed into a web-based application. NCHA maintains the site for the project.

“Facilities are able to update their information from their own location and most facilities are updating daily. In the past 30 days, the site has received more than 1,600 searches by the participating facilities to match their patients to an available bed listed in this data base,” she said. “The board is also searchable, meaning that it can be used by the LMEs, hospitals and other providers to find the nearest appropriate facility that best match their patients’ needs.”

“The N.C. Hospital Association wholeheartedly supports this united effort to connect patients who are mentally ill or have substance use issues to an appropriate facility as rapidly as possible,” said Mike Vicario, NCHA vice president of regulatory affairs. “NCHA will continue to encourage, support and assist in these types of public/private collaborative efforts as they are developed in the future.”

The key to making the bed board concept work depended on allowing providers to do simple real-time data updates using the web-based application, Edmondson said. The bed board also allows facilities to filter the search by gender, age and commitment issues. She added that the board also lets providers list medical health care conditions that the facility is unable to accept – such as patients on special medical equipment or other pre-existing conditions the facility is not designed for or the staff is trained to handle.

The eastern hospital directors group consists of state, community and private hospital directors; state personnel and LME directors. This group has been meeting with Cherry Hospital staff trying to reduce the emergency room wait times for mental health patients needing inpatient services in the eastern region.

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