My Turn: Local mental health units should not be shut down

  • mactrunk mactrunk

Published: 3/11/2022 11:03:59 AM

It has become increasingly clear that mental health is currently at crisis levels, ranging from children to the elderly, from well-to-do to the homeless. The March 9 article published in the Recorder reporting the addition of a mental health treatment facility in Holyoke to address the “dire shortage” has me quite confused as to the logic of closing the mental health units at our local hospitals.

Now, I am no math wizard, but if 681 people are currently waiting in emergency rooms for a spot in a mental health facility, and 150 beds will be made available through this new facility in Holyoke, that leaves 531 people still without a place to go except to “board” in our emergency rooms — which means literally living in the ER. This means not only are the rooms unavailable for emergencies, but staff are also caring for them which stretches the amount of staff available for any trauma/emergency that comes in by ambulance.

Isn’t it logical to keep our local hospital’s mental health units open to accept mental health patients? Is Baystate Health closing these units because of lack of profits? Baystate is supposedly non-profit, and cares for the community, yet they will partner with a for-profit company in building a measly 150 bed facility and then close whatever we already have in our local hospitals. This doesn’t make sense unless it is all about profit, and not really about the people who so desperately need help.

This community needs to speak up and demand that our local mental health units are not shut down just because a facility of 150 beds is opening. When those units close, those new beds in Holyoke will be filled with the community hospitals’ current populations. Then where do the excess 600 or so people go? They continue to live in our local ER … and the cycle begins again.

I currently work as maternity nurse at the Birthplace at Franklin Medical Center. When there is not enough staff in the ER, I have been called upon to “sit” with mental health patients in the ER to ensure their safety while they are waiting for a bed somewhere. Bottom line: more beds, not less.

Terri Kerner lives in Greenfield and lost a daughter by suicide due to mental illness.


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