GAINES TWP. — Citing “skyrocketing” demand from the COVID-19 pandemic, Pine Rest Christian Mental Health Services wants to open a 40-bed inpatient psychiatric unit that could transition between serving adults and children and adolescents.
In an application this week to the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, Pine Rest seeks emergency approval for the unit at the Van Andel Center on Pine Rest’s 68th Street campus in Gaines Township. The unit would enable Pine Rest “to respond to the pediatric mental health crisis created by the COVID-19 pandemic on an emergency basis,” according to the certificate-of-need application to the state.
“The child and adult demand is just skyrocketing,” Pine Rest Chief Operating Office Bob Nykamp said, adding that “kids are getting stuck” in hospital emergency departments.
Since the pandemic began, Pine Rest has seen a 600-percent increase compared to pre-COVID levels in the number of adolescent patients referred from hospitals that it has had to turn away because of a lack of capacity or staff, Nykamp said.
Adolescents discharged at Spectrum Health’s DeVos Children’s Hospital emergency department have grown 40 percent from pre-pandemic days, he said. A spokesperson for Spectrum Health confirmed the increase.
Most of the recent increase in adolescent cases involves teenagers with anxiety, mood disorders and substance use resulting from the pandemic.
Pine Rest expects an answer from the state on the emergency application by Oct. 4. The behavioral health care provider would open the new unit as soon as possible, depending on the availability of staff for the unit.
“I’m hoping we can get an affirmative answer and we can start right away,” Nykamp said.
Early in the pandemic last year, Pine Rest received emergency CON approval from the state to open a 40-bed inpatient unit to take in and treat psychiatric patients from around the state who tested positive for COVID-19. The application filed this week would make the emergency licensing of those inpatient beds permanent and allow Pine Rest to transition them between adult and adolescent use in space that would cost $2.6 million to renovate.
“We can flex the unit based on community demand to either be an adult unit or a child/adolescent unit,” Nykamp said.
Pine Rest has a similarly licensed, 26-bed unit at the Van Andel Center that opened in 2017.
Spectrum Health also looks to expand behavioral health capacity for children and adolescents. The health system in September filed a letter of intent with the state that indicates it plans to seek certificate of need approval for a 12-bed inpatient unit for children and adolescents at DeVos Children’s Hospital that would cost $10.6 million.