Phase One: Done

Lake Charles Memorial Health System’s new $9 million behavioral health facility expected to open June 1

{{tncms-inline alignment=”left” content=”<p><strong>‘It’s the first free-standing psychiatric hospital built in Louisiana in 40 years. To have that in Lake Charles is just a dream come true.’</strong><br /><strong>Dr. Dale Archer</strong><br />Memorial’s psychiatric services medical director</p>” id=”fcd4a324-5d35-4dbe-888d-b577ccebc409″ style-type=”quote” title=”Pull Quote” type=”relcontent” width=”half”}}

Crews have finished the first phase of work on the Archer Institute, a more than 35,000-square-foot behavioral health facility that seeks to fill a major shortage of inpatient beds for patients with severe mental health issues.

The facility, located at 6713 Nelson Road, will grow the number of inpatient beds from 40 to 73. It is expected to be open June 1. The Lake Charles Memorial Health System is funding phase one’s $9 million price tag.

The institute is named after longtime psychiatrist Dr. Dale Archer, who founded Memorial’s psychiatric program in 1988. He is the medical director for Memorial’s psychiatric services.

“It’s the first free-standing psychiatric hospital built in Louisiana in 40 years,” Archer said. “To have that in Lake Charles is just a dream come true.”

Robert Prehn, Memorial’s vice president of specialty services, said the new beds, while welcome, are “just a drop in the bucket for what the state needs.” He said the 40 inpatient beds at Memorial’s Oak Park campus are insufficient, with patients either spending hours in the hospital’s emergency room, or being sent to hospitals in Shreveport or New Orleans.

“Typically, we’ll run full, and we have enough patients to fill another 35 to 40 beds,” Prehn said. “There are about eight to 10 patients per day in the ER because we can’t treat them.”

Prehn said the Oak Park campus averages “almost 20 calls a day from hospitals all over the state” asking if they can house patients with mental illnesses.

A report by the Treatment Advocacy Center said Louisiana needs more than 1,300 beds to meet minimum standards.

The facility

The number of adult beds will grow from 18 to 28, while child beds will increase from 10 to 14. Adult and child inpatient beds at the Oak Park campus will be moved to the institute.

The number of geriatric beds will be expanded from 12 to 31. Prehn said those beds will remain at the Oak Park campus, and there could be plans to move them to the institute. Most older patients also have medical conditions that accompany their psychiatric issues, he said.

A 24-hour call center and a walk-in assessment center will allow patients to skip the emergency room.

“A vast majority of psych patients we see have no medical conditions, so they go to the bottom of the list on triage because they aren’t dealing with trauma,” Prehn said. “There’s no good reason those patients need to go through the ER.”

The Louisiana Department of Health could license the institute within the next 30 to 45 days, Prehn said. He said department officials are working to speed up the licensing process because of the shortage of inpatient beds.

History

Louisiana has lost “93 percent of inpatient psychiatric beds since 1965,” Prehn said. State psychiatric hospitals that were active in the 1950s and 1960s had care paid for by the federal government and held at least 1,000 beds.

The passage of the Medicaid Institutes for Mental Disease exclusion removed the use of Medicaid funds to house adult patients in freestanding psychiatric hospitals. Prehn said this forced states to reduce the number of inpatient beds as a cost-cutting measure. Congress has since let the exclusion sunset.

Fewer inpatient beds were needed as patients responded better to new psychotropic drugs, Prehn said. During the 1960s, patients with mental illness were reintroduced into the community, with some people considering psychiatric hospitals cruel and unusual, he said.

“The problem is we overshot the goal,” Prehn said. “That’s where the homeless population increased and a lot of mentally ill people were put in jail.”

Over the last three decades, Archer said the viewpoint of mental illness went from being “stigmatized to glamorized.” He said that led to more patients being treated, with some being “overmedicated” or “overdiagnosed.”

“Some (patients) were just dealing with everyday life and really had no business being treated or prescribed a (medication),” Archer said.

Archer said this also created a gap in the number of inpatient beds needed to treat people with several mental illnesses. If the institute wasn’t built, he said the local homeless population may have increased because of the economic growth.

“I think that we’re being proactive with it,” Archer said.

Prehn said the private sector has helped provide better care for people with mental health problems over the last 10 to 15 years.

Other work

Prehn said the institute was designed to hold 102 inpatient beds. The second phase of work calls for two additional 30-bed units. The demand, he said, will be driven by how quickly it takes for the community to reach a point where more beds are needed.

The third phase calls for building a mental health/medical office building adjacent to the hospital. Prehn said psychiatrists and advancedpractice nurses will be able to do outpatient work, including counseling and therapy.

“It will be a one-stop shop where the entire continuum of care will all be there,” he said.

The last two phases of work will likely take three to five years to get done, Prehn said.

 

‘It’s the first free-standing psychiatric hospital built in Louisiana in 40 years. To have that in Lake Charles is just a dream come true.’

Dr. Dale Archer

Memorial’s psychiatric services medical director

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