Kaweah Delta Gauges Support for Inpatient Mental Health Wing for Adolescents
Kaweah Delta Health Care District could convert a wing of its adult mental hospital to provide inpatient care for adolescents if health officials from six counties in the San Joaquin Valley support the proposal, the Fresno Bee reports. Kaweah Delta more than a year ago proposed creating a 16-bed inpatient psychiatric wing to serve people ages 13 to 17 from Tulare, Fresno, Merced, Kings, Mariposa and Madera counties. Kaweah Delta estimates that the remodeled wing would cost $130,000.
According to Kaweah Delta Finance Director Jennifer Stockton, a preliminary financial analysis has indicated that the unit would lose about $1 million in its first few years before patient volumes would be sufficient to improve the unit's financial performance.
Mental health officials in San Joaquin Valley have indicated that a lack of psychiatric services for youths warrants the development of a new mental health hospital, according to a study released Wednesday by Kaweah Delta consultant Mike Gallagher.
Gallagher said that the 2002 closure of Cedar Vista Hospital has prompted teenagers in the San Joaquin Valley who require hospital treatment for psychiatric problems to be referred to hospitals outside the region, the nearest of which is in Modesto.
Gallagher also said that the overall number of children being referred for inpatient psychiatric care has decreased dramatically. He said, "Are they going into group homes, into foster care or into the criminal justice system? We don't want to deny care because we don't have a facility or because it's inconvenient."
Grace Dodd, managed care coordinator for the Fresno County Department of Behavioral Health, said the agency places about 140 children annually in mental health hospitals in Modesto, Sacramento and Los Angeles. She noted that facilities outside the area are more expensive because case workers must travel to monitor teens' progress.
Kaweah Delta CEO Lindsay Mann said, "The ultimate feasibility [of creating an inpatient center] will depend on how we can come to a collective vision for the service. Kaweah Delta is not just interested in inpatient care. There is a clear and pressing need for child and adolescent psychiatric services in the San Joaquin Valley."
Mann said that all six counties must participate in a "collaborative effort" because none can individually provide enough patients for a new hospital to be economically feasible. Mann said, "We won't open if we don't have the commitment and the depth of resources." Mann added, "We will develop a clinically outstanding program. We're not interested in anything less ... but we need to make it financially viable."
Kaweah Delta will hold formal discussions with officials from the six counties before making a final decision on the project. The board could "move forward with the project within a few months" if counties pledge sufficient support and patient referrals, the Bee reports (Sheehan, Fresno Bee, 3/24).