MADERA COUNTY, California (KGPE) — It’s no secret health care access in the Central Valley is lacking, especially for specialty care like mental health services. It’s why Valley Children’s Healthcare announced a new partnership Wednesday that’ll create a new hospital just for patients with those needs.
Valley Children’s is teaming up with Universal Health Services to create a 128-bed behavioral health hospital on their Madera campus. Twenty-four of those beds will be dedicated just for children aged from 5 to 17.
The facility will be open for adults needing behavioral health care as well, with specialty programs for adults being offered.
Dr. Michael Danovsky, the manager of Psychology Services and Pediatric Psychology at Valley Children’s, said staff has noticed the growing need for behavioral health services in children.
Over one weekend in September, Danovsky said, the hospital admitted 16 patients in the Emergency Room that ended up having behavioral health issues.
“While some of them were able to be discharged home and find services in their own communities — five of these [patients] required inpatient care,” he said. “Of those five, three had to leave the valley to receive that care.”
The biggest thing the new hospital will do is give families the ability to stay home for care. In the 12 counties Valley Children’s primarily serves, there are only 49 dedicated behavioral health inpatient beds available.
What does that mean for families in the area? They have to drive long distances to get their loved ones adequate care.
“The closest facility that we tend to know of is Bakersfield. There’s also something in the Bay Area for our youth,” said Chris Roup, executive director of the National Alliance of Mental Illness’ Fresno chapter. “However, families have need here. They have other children. They have jobs.”
The new facility is part of an ongoing, decades-long plan to make Valley Children’s a health care destination for all ages.
“From birth — all the way through childhood and then on into adulthood — this will be a fully integrated medical campus with all of the capabilities needed to care for the residents of the communities here,” said Todd Suntrapak, president and CEO of Valley Children’s.
The state still needs to give the greenlight on all of this, but the hope is to start construction next year with the goal of opening by 2022. It will be owned and operated by UHS. It will employ more than 250 clinicians, nurses, mental health technicians, and other support staff.
The new hospital will also host new residency programs to not only further increase behavioral health access, but to hopefully retain medical talent in the Central Valley.