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New psychiatric unit in West Michigan serves COVID-19 patients with mental illnesses

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Pine Rest Christian Mental Health Services is addressing an urgent statewide need by opening a new inpatient and residential psychiatric services unit for individuals with behavioral health concerns who also have COVID-19. (WWMT / Pine Rest)

Pine Rest Christian Mental Health Services partnered with the State of Michigan to open a new inpatient and residential psychiatric services unit for individuals also battling COVID-19.

The program was designed to alleviate pressure on Michigan hospitals while addressing the growing demand for mental health services due to the pandemic.

“These are services that are unique so not everyone can provide them," Harmony Gould, the Vice President at Pine Rest Christian Mental Health Services, said. “The health care systems are very busy taking care of patients who are sick with COVID but not everyone is equipped to care for these groups safely because of the challenges."

The behavioral health organization began a rapid effort in mid-November 2020 to renovate existing space on its Cutlerville Campus, located at 300 68th Street Southeast in Grand Rapids, and opened its first eight inpatient beds on the new Special Care Unit on Dec. 21, 2020.

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Gould said contributing to the strain on capacity within many Michigan hospitals is the significant challenge of finding placement for individuals in need of psychiatric care who have also tested positive for COVID-19, as very few behavioral health providers within the state are equipped to serve this population.

Pine Rest Christian Mental Health Services is the fourth largest behavioral health provider in the country and has been a leader in mental health services in Michigan for decades. Working with the State of Michigan will allow them to uniquely serve Michigan residents during a crucial time, according to Gould.

"This creates access for people who could get turned away for these really important services," Gould said. "Those people are generally in crisis so they might be presenting a threat to themselves or others."

Patients from all over the state could utilize the Special Care Unit in Grand Rapids.

The space featured four self-contained pods with private rooms and treatment areas for psychiatric care of individuals who were asymptomatic or experiencing mild COVID-19 symptoms but still required isolation.

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