Oklahoma County to lose almost 60 psychiatric beds

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Plans to close an Oklahoma County medical facility that provides almost 60 inpatient adult psychiatric beds will put new pressure on the region’s medical care system for those with severe mental illness, experts said.

Deaconess Hospital’s Bethany facility provides “a small percentage of the overall inpatient psychiatric services available in the community,” according to the hospital. On average, the facility has 25 patients at any time who are receiving short-term behavioral health services. The campus has 57 beds available, according to the hospital.

The closure will affect about 70 employees, according to a letter from the hospital CEO to the facility’s board and staff.

Bethany CEO Cathryn Hibbs said the decision to close Deaconess at Bethany in February was difficult.

“These are challenging times for hospitals, and we all must carefully consider how we apply our resources,” Hibbs said in a statement.

The Oklahoman reports (http://bit.ly/1fdJ3bP ) mental health and law enforcement officials worry the closure will further tax Oklahoma’s mental health system.

Terri White, the state’s mental health commissioner, said having fewer options for psychiatric care can mean greater problems for patients and the community. The state ranks among the top 10 states of adults struggling with mental illness.

“The department is very concerned about loss of any psychiatric beds, particularly this number of beds, given that we already have an issue where law enforcement is driving hundreds of miles trying to find someone a psychiatric bed,” White said. “The system is already overloaded.”

Deaconess, which will shut down its inpatient psychiatric services Feb. 10, was one of few hospitals in Oklahoma City to provide the type of psychiatric care. OU Medical Center, which had 12 adult psychiatric beds, closed its unit in 2010. Meanwhile, St. Anthony Hospital has 87 adult beds.

Oklahoma County Sheriff John Whetsel said he asked Deaconess to reconsider shutting the unit, a move he called a “horrible decision.”

“I know there’s a bottom line for their shareholders,” Whetsel said. “But I’m more concerned about the bottom line for law enforcement, the safety of our community and the safety of those who have mental health issues.”

Whetsel said for some people with mental illness, the longer they go without their medications and treatments, the more likely they will be to commit more serious offenses.

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Information from: The Oklahoman, http://www.newsok.com

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