New Behavioral Health Crisis Unit Set to Open in Norwich

Backus Hospital will start treating patients in its new behavioral health crisis unit next month, pending approval from the Department of Public Health.

NBC Connecticut

Backus Hospital is preparing to open a new Behavioral Health Crisis Unit in its emergency department. The ten-room unit is designed to meet a growing need in the community, according to members of the hospital's care team.

"Mental health needs have absolutely skyrocketed since COVID. I think it has certainly become a greater need," said Melissa Oloff, a nurse at Backus Hospital.

Dr. Kyle McClaine, Chief of Emergency Services, said that mental health care is the region's greatest need in emergency medicine right now.

"It's really hard for the community to keep up and we find that this population grows and grows and sometimes we are spilling over into the hallways into the rest of the emergency department having two or three areas with behavioral health patients instead of just the few beds that we had many years ago," said Dr. McClaine. "To have at least 10 patients to have completely individualized, private, quiet, environments and experiences is going to help so much."

Each room in the unit has doors and walls to create a private experience for the patient. Patients can dim the lights. The unit also has a number of safety features for the care team including cameras, door access, panic buttons and water shut-off.

"There is going to be so much less foot traffic going through this area, which is going to allow for a lot less stimulation and a lot more calming environment for our patients. So much more privacy and the ability for people to actually feel like they can share what is going on," said Oloff, who will be working as a nurse in the unit.

There is also a separate area for adolescents seeking crisis care. If the unit receives approval from the Connecticut Department of Public Health, it is set to open next month.

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